By Nathan Pilling firstname.lastname@example.org
July 25, 2014
XENIA — Rarely has Dan Bullen not been at the Greene County Fair.
Bullen, the Greene County Fair Board President and board member of 19 years, can recall only one year in his life that he missed the fair, and that was because he was stationed overseas in Okinawa during his time in the US Navy. And even during his time in the military he would usually take leave to make sure he made it back for the event.
“It’s been in my blood,” he said. “I was in 4-H. My family showed dairy cattle here. I grew up in those barns.”
In addition to being involved in fairs as a child, later on Bullen managed the Montgomery County Fairgrounds for 13 years and has had regular involvement with the Greene County Fair in various capacities throughout the years. Yeah, it’s in his blood, alright.
With that kind of heritage and commitment, it’s not hard to see why he’s the president of the fair board. As president, it’s his job to manage the fair board directors and officers and give them direction on fair matters.
Board members are elected by the membership of the Greene County Agricultural Society and serve three-year terms. The board members in turn elect their leadership. That’s how Bullen reached his current role.
Those who serve on the board are volunteers. While they do get $25 a day during the days surrounding the fair, for the most part, their work is a labor of love.
“There’s been many years when we’ve had bad fairs that we all decide not to take any money,” Bullen said. “If our cash account is pretty low we all make a vote and say we’re not taking any money.”
His is a role that must combine management characteristics with a big picture vision. Some days will see him working in the fair office and others will see him sitting down with fair committee members to make sure plans for the fair are headed in the right direction.
Just as in many other areas of life, success in the fair business is found in the balancing of interests, and in Bullen’s work with the fair, two of those interests are named “the past” and “the future.”
Appealing to the fair’s agricultural roots and those who have attended for many years is important because they have made the fair what it is today, but looking to the future and increasingly urbanized younger generations is also important if the fair is to continue that heritage. And Bullen has a vision for how to get those younger generations in the gates.
“One of my goals while I’m on here is to try to start bringing more tech stuff onto the grounds,” he said. “Those type of tech items are what’s going to bring the next generation to the fair.”
It’s part of the life cycle of a fair. But even with those changes, for Bullen, some things stay the same year after year.
“You come in, you see the same people every year,” Bullen said. “I’ve got friends that I was in high school with, I don’t see throughout the year, but I always see them the week of the fair. It’s that almost reunion of the whole county for the week.”
Why does he enjoy his work with the fair board? It’s simple: “It’s fun to throw a party for 65,000 people, and it’s a success.”
It’s a party that’s been going for a long time now, and Bullen seems happy to be at least a small part of it.
“I’m big on heritage, from family to … local history, national history, so … I’m helping with one aspect of history,” he said. “We’re the longest continuous fair west of the Alleghenies. There’s not a lot of events that they can say that they’ve been [going for] 175 years.”