Seven years after overseeing the Nebraska State Fair's historic move from Lincoln to Grand Island, Joseph McDermott will retire as the fair's executive director.
The State Fair Board announced McDermott's retirement in a news release Wednesday. McDermott will work with the fair in a consulting role next year as a new executive director comes on board.
"Our goal is to continue and build upon the success and momentum that the Nebraska State Fair has seen in recent years," said Chris Kircher, the board chairman.
McDermott spent 30 years with the fair, and his first job was to write software on an IBM mainframe computer.
Prior to taking the leadership role on a permanent basis nine years ago, McDermott served several stints as interim executive director.
“It has been an incredible run for the last three decades and especially since the fair moved to Grand Island," McDermott, a G.I. native, said in a news release.
Attendance at the 2017 fair reached an all-time high since moving to Grand Island and approached the event's 20-year-old attendance record.
State Fair officials said 379,108 people attended this year's 11-day event. It's the first time attendance in Grand Island surpassed crowds at the final fair held in Lincoln in 2009.
"The support of the fair by the Grand Island community has simply been amazing," said McDermott, who helped transform the grounds of Fonner Park into a permanent home for the State Fair after the fairgrounds in Lincoln was turned over to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for development of Nebraska Innovation Campus.
No state fair anywhere in the country had picked up and moved in recent memory, and certainly not to a location away from the state's population base.
McDermott offered his thanks to the board and State Fair staff for their hard work, and said now is the time to "bring in a fresh set of eyes" to maintain the momentum.
"The success we've experienced was significantly better than any of us expected in 2009," McDermott said. "And the fair has continued to grow every year."