Trom steps down from fair board

Published 5:30 pm Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ken Trom cuts the ribbon to open this past year’s Mower County Fair. Trom is retiring from his position with the fair. - Herald file photo

After 27 years as a busy member of the Mower CountyFair Board of Directors, Ken Trom can take a stroll down the midway simply as a visitor next year.

The long-tenured member announced his retirement earlier this month at November’s fair board meeting.

“I had pretty much made up my mind,” Trom said. “After 27 years, it was just time to move along and do something different.”

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But Trom won’t disappear from the scene. He still has his hands involved in the fairground’s operations, and he recently got to see his tree-planting endeavor come to fruition. Trom, with the help of others, recently planted 40 trees at the Mower County Fairgrounds, and he has plans to do two more plantings in the coming years.

“I honestly think this tree project is going to be his legacy,” said recently elected Mower County Fair Board President Neal Anderson, who will take over for John Mueller.

Anderson served with Trom on the board for the past 11 years, and he and others will miss Trom’s expertise.

“Kenny’s going to be dearly missed,” Anderson said. “And by no means is he leaving because he wants to.”

Though Trom planned on retiring last year, his ties to the Mower County Fair were just too strong.

“I was going to quit last year,” Trom said. “But they needed some more help, and it was a one-year position. … I said by golly, I can take that for one more year.”

Anderson noted the fair board requires many commitments, and Trom has served nearly every single commitment on the fair board in the past — from secretary to president. He has dealt with advertising, public relations and marketing, the beer garden, concessions, the fair square, award shows, buildings and grounds and opening ceremonies — all voluntarily. In January of 2011, Trom received Minnesota’s District 1 Fair Person of the Year Award, which encompasses roughly 10 counties; and at the 2011 Mower County Fair, Trom received Mower’s Fair Person of the Year Award. He agrees to continue volunteering whenever needed.

“He’s not going away,” Anderson said. “He’s just not going to be on the board.”

In 27 years, Trom has seen a lot of change at the fair. He recalls how country music was a huge draw in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He recalls how decreasing funding from the county changed how the fair board drew money for the fair. He remembers scouting other fairs for ideas, trying to find new vendors and trying to create new forms of entertainment.

But during those 27 years, one thing has remained. And it’s something on which all people involved with the fair pride themselves: The fair is still free admission.

“That’s one thing in my career that worked out good,” Trom said. “When the county quit giving the operation money, we were quite concerned that we would have to go to a paid-gate admission. But we reworked a lot of things income and expense wise, and we were able to put those new practices into place and keep it a free fair. And we’re really proud of that.”

Furthermore, Trom said he thinks the fair gets better every year. Though super-hot weather dampened attendance in 2010, the Mower County Fair had record attendance in 2011, with nearly 85,000 visitors.

Justin Bickler, who is taking over for Trom’s position, will join the many others who aim to keep both the fair and Trom’s legacies rolling. The board members will work hard because that’s what Trom did.

“He’s a great inspiration for the rest of us,” Anderson said about Trom.

While Bickler’s doing that, people will now get to see Trom while he’s enjoying the fair — where they can shake his hand for what he’s helped mold for the past quarter-century.