A Conversation With Kent Hojem
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A Conversation With Kent Hojem

Kent Hojem is CEO of the Washington State Fair and has held that position since January 2005. His duties involve overseeing one of the top attended fairs in the world, which is held in September, as well as the Spring Fair each April. Kent also provides oversight of Oktoberfest Northwest, a joint venture project, as well as all interim rental activities at the Washington State Fair Events Center throughout the year. Kent currently is on the Board of Directors of International Association of Fairs and Expositions, and is in line to be the association’s Chairman in 2016. He received his Certification as a Fair Executive from IAFE and was Board President of Western Fairs Association in 2013. He is also Past President of Washington State Fairs Association.

Kent is serving, or has served, on various boards in the community including Washington State 4-H Foundation, Tacoma Regional Convention + Visitors Bureau, Puyallup/Sumner Chamber of Commerce, Puyallup Main Street Association, Communities In Schools of Puyallup and Washington, and the Fred Oldfield Western Heritage Museum, among others.

Prior to taking on the CEO role, Kent was Assistant Manager, Operations for the Fair since March 1996. His background in fair management is extensive, having been Manager of the Thurston County Fair for ten years, and as Assistant Manager of the Southwest Washington Fair another ten year before that.

Kent was born and raised in Chehalis, Washington, and is a Mathematical Sciences graduate of Stanford University. He and his wife, Carolyn, live in Puyallup, and are surrounded by their family, including Criss and wife Andie, Trent and wife Toni, and their four grandchildren: Tucker, Sydney, Monica, and Mackenzie.

In this episode, Kent, talks extensively about the experience of changing the name and rebranding the Fair (formerly known as the Puyallup Fair). He speaks about the “why’s” and the “how’s” of the process and in the end says, whatever you call it, “don’t forget to come!” Kent also addresses the crucial need to use niche marketing to reach a diverse and fractured audience. Change may be difficult but it’s a must and it is POSITIVE – even for an event with a 110+ year history!

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Key Episode Moments:

  1. 4:18 - Kent’s personal key to success: challenge yourself every day to get outside your comfort zone.
  2. 9:07 - Kent addresses the decision to change the name of the Fair from the Puyallup Fair to the Washington State Fair. One key reason was sponsorship opportunities outside of the Northwestern U.S.
  3. 14:45 - Rebranding is a huge undertaking BUT it is a golden opportunity to clean house and GET NOTICED!
  4. 16:50 - The Fair wanted to be an event for the entire state so the rebranding was important to make Eastern Washington and other far corners of the state feel welcome so they will want to make this a tradition for generations.
  5. 19:30 - Marketing has changed and niche marketing to reach diverse and fractured audience is key to successful marketing. 
  6. 20:18 - Fairs, which can be traditional, need to push marketing efforts beyond their comfort zone. For many, this means a push towards social media. It is main-stream! 
  7. 23:30Guerilla marketing is so clever and is a future trend (cites DiGiorno pizza tweets during live broadcast of The Sound of Music)

Kent's Organizations

International Association of Fairs & Expositions
Western Fairs Association
Washington State Fair Association
The Amplifier is brought to you by Saffire in cooperation with IAFE, IFEA, IAVM and WFA. For more information or feedback, please contact info@saffire.com.

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