Recknor retires from state fair board

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 18, 2004

By Geri McShane Tribune Lifestyles Editor

After 45 years in the fair business, Howard Recknor is hanging it up.

Today, the Hartland man turns over his president’s gavel to his successor on the Minnesota State Fair Board of Directors.

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&uot;I suppose I’ll miss it,&uot; Recknor said of his duties on the state fair board, an organization he’s served for the last 15 years. &uot;There will be a void, but there’s a time for everything.&uot;

As a board member, Recknor helped set policy for the state fair, while the manager and his two assistants oversaw the day-to-day activities on the 310-acre fairgrounds.

It’s been a huge time commitment, with conventions and meetings taking up at least 40 days of the year.

The state fair is a huge business, Recknor said, bringing in $30 million per year. The fair employs 70 people year-round, and about 2,100 during the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

He compares that with the Texas State Fair. Texas brings in 3 million people in its 24-day run, and Minnesota brings in 1.9 million in its 12-day run.

&uot;It makes a person stop and think,&uot; Recknor said. &uot;Looking back, this old farmer’s been involved in something big. Minnesota’s got the best state fair in North America.&uot;

He can’t say enough about the way the state fair is managed. &uot;It hasn’t received a government subsidy since 1948. &uot;The board is smart enough and the management good enough to keep politicians out of it,&uot; he said.

One of the biggest things Recknor’s been involved with in the last few years at the fair is the grandstand renovation. &uot;It’s going to be a $25 million project by the time it’s done,&uot; he said.

The state fair has also formed a foundation. &uot;That will be a big thing down the road as far as financial status,&uot; he predicted.

He’s been involved in most every facet of the state fair, too, being assigned to all the departments at one time or another.

&uot;I liked the livestock area and tried to stay close to that, because we had two kids in 4-H, showing livestock and hogs,&uot; he said.

As president, he said, he &uot;had a finger in everything so I knew what was going on.&uot;

Before the state fair, there was the county fair for Recknor.

He joined the Freeborn County Fair Board in the 1960s, and served for 30 years, including a 25-year stint as fair manager.

&uot;I was pretty green those first days,&uot; he recalled.

Among his favorite county fair memories are getting to meet the grandstand entertainers. He treasurers his encounters with such big names as Donny and Marie Osmond, Reba McIntire, Trisha Yearwood, The Oak Ridge Boys and Tanya Tucker.

It was also gratifying to see changes made to the county fairgrounds during his time on the board, he said.

Recknor also served six or seven years on the Federation of County Fairs Board before being &uot;talked into&uot; a position on the state fair board.

&uot;It was all spur of the moment,&uot; he said. &uot;I didn’t campaign or anything and I won the endorsement.&uot;

It’s been a good ride, and one Recknor’s glad he took. &uot;My wife thinks I know everybody in the state of Minnesota,&uot; he said.

And he still plans to take in at least one day of this year’s state fair. &uot;I’ll still be active in the group for retired board members,&uot; he said. &uot;They always get together for a day at the state fair.&uot;

(Contact Geri McShane at, or call 379-3436.)