Big Iron's new leader ready to make farm show bigger, better

FARGO - New to North Dakota but accustomed to corn, fabricated iron and farm shows is the Red River Valley Fairgrounds General Manager - Wayne Venter.

FARGO - New to North Dakota but accustomed to corn, fabricated iron and farm shows is the Red River Valley Fairgrounds General Manager - Wayne Venter.

Venter enjoys his work in the "entertainment business" as he likes to call it. Although he possesses a bachelor's degree in math, he was unable to find work in his field after graduating, and instead, landed a career in advertising. His career in agriculture publishing helped him cultivate relationships with important clients, as did his career in manufacturing, where slow moving vehicle signs were mass produced.

Along the way, Venter decided to change his path and start a farm show in Grand Island, Neb. The show became a success and touts 1,000 acres of farmland and 80 acres of exhibits.

For more than 30 years, Venter focused his skills on exciting business adventures in Nebraska, but decided to retire from the hectic schedules. Calm days and relaxing nights didn't last long, though, because he soon pursued a vacancy for general manager of the Red River Valley Fair, in Fargo, which includes oversight of all events at the fairgrounds. After arriving in February, Venter had to hit the ground running as racing soon followed, then the Red River Valley Fair in June, then more racing until Big Iron takes precedence this month.

No doubt, Venter is a busy man, as papers scatter his desktop, his phone incessantly rings and board and committee members walk into his office.


This job is certainly not for the faint of heart. In fact, Venter welcomes the fast-paced atmosphere and thrives in an environment where decisions have to be made fast.

He notes that his favorite part is the people.

"The people are the same (as Nebraskans); honest and hardworking," Venter said.

Another portion Venter calls his favorite are the challenges he continually faces, even though he acknowledges the job can sometimes be overwhelming. Doing the little things right the first time is important to Venter. His philosophy is one that caters to the minute details because once those are established, the simpler tasks will fall into place.

Anyone who vies for Venter's attention will likely be met with a friendly smile and a welcoming tone of voice, that's the salesman side of him. The businessman in him relies on good judgement, the ability to say no and demonstrating clear ethical guidelines.

Since taking the lead of the fairgrounds, customers probably haven't noticed many changes. Part of Venter's plan is to fully understand the product he's working with so he will mainly be observing this year's events.

Visitors for Big Iron can expect the status quo, too, as the event will mimic what has worked in the past. During the show, Venter plans to keep a watchful eye on everything, from exhibits, to demonstrations, traffic flow and layout design.

By keeping quiet this year Venter anticipates learning important information about North Dakota culture, products and people. Indication of a seasoned businessman point to the caution Venter uses to incorporate changes that affect the overall feel of Big Iron


"Eventually, I'd like to go to live exhibits, where customers can work cattle through chutes and gates," Venter said.

Other ideas on reserve in Venter's mind are events with team penning, a main horse event and seed plots.

"I'd love to see combines run side-by-side," Venter said. "Can't isn't in my vocabulary."

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