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Venter begins as new Fair manager

The Red River Valley Fair has a new manager in place. Wayne Venter officially assumed duties Monday. He had previously served as director of the Lancaster Event Center in Lincoln, Neb. until July of this year.

The Fair Board voted at their Jan. 12 meeting to offer the position to Venter at a $75,000 per year salary, plus benefits, similar to the package offered to former Fair Manager John Pitz, whom Venter is replacing.

In an interview Monday, Venter said he has acquainted himself with staff and is anxious to draw on his experience to promote Fairground activities so the facility can be utilized at a much greater level day-in, day-out all year long. One of his first goals will be to study the pricing structure for off-season events at the Fairgrounds, including activity in the concession area. "There are a lot more times during the year where we can generate revenue, especially during the week when it goes right to the bottom line," Venter said.

Red River Valley Fair Board President Darnell Lundstrom said he is excited to have Venter on board. "He brings along some excellent experience," Lundstrom noted, mentioning Venter's expertise in managing the Lancaster Event Center and being involved with the Nebraska Corn Husker event. "We think he's full of energy and has some excellent ideas on how we can further make use of our unique facility. We already have three big activities in place, the Fair, Big Iron and Racing, and this year we will be hosting the fireworks event again. It will be good to have a fresh view on other things we can incorporate."

Venter is familiar with fair and farm show activity but admits he hasn't dealt with racing, so he might need a little help to begin with. On that note, he will be meeting soon with racing association members to gain input and better familiarize himself with the process.

He added that he has no trepidation about stepping into the position that has been plagued by controversy with the dismissal of former manager Bruce Olson and then the resignation of Pitz. "I don't have any qualms whatsoever," he said. "This is big business and you have to run it like that. This is a challenge and we have all these opportunities and we just have to work through it. Open communication will be the key - talking and working through the planning will make it both easy and fun."

His wife, Kathy, a teacher in Lincoln will be joining Venter in the community at the conclusion of the school year. They are the parents of two grown children and have three grandchildren. The Venters will eventually make their residence in the home located on the Fairgrounds.