Nationwide search is on for Ohio State Fair general manager

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 5, 2023

COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced this week that a nationwide search for the next general manager of the Ohio Expo Center & State Fair is now underway.

During a joint news conference this afternoon, Virgil Strickler, who has served as the Expo Center and State Fair’s general manager since 2004, announced that he will retire around the end of the year.

“With Virgil’s departure, we will have some big boots to fill,” said Governor DeWine. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Virgil for many years and wish him nothing but the best as he begins his retirement.”

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Strickler is the longest-running general manager in the history of the Ohio State Fair. He began his career at the Ohio Expo Center in 1993 as agriculture director and was then selected for the role of general manager in January 2004. 

“Today is bittersweet. I will be forever grateful for the last three decades at the Ohio State Fair,” Strickler said. “I’ve grown up at fairs, and Ohio’s county and independent fairs are what makes our State Fair so strong. I’ve watched my children, and now grandchildren, grow up here. The State Fair means so much to generations of Ohioans, and I’m proud of the strong partnerships we’ve developed over the years, and how they have helped our State Fair grow and improve each year.”

Strickler was instrumental in implementing the Ohio State Fair’s nationally recognized Youth Reserve Program in 1995, which has awarded $4,691,150 in scholarships to more than 44,500 youth exhibitors since its inception. In recognition of Strickler’s dedication to the Ohio State Fair over the past three decades, Governor DeWine today renamed the program in his honor.

“I’m pleased to announce that this generous program will now be known as the Virgil L. Strickler Youth Reserve Program,” DeWine said. “While Virgil has accomplished so much during his tenure with the state, this program and his support of Ohio’s youth are truly his legacy.”

Angela Krile, chair of the Ohio Expositions Commission Strickler had poured his all into these grounds over the past three decades.

“He has paved the way for continued investments in our next generation of leaders and for great improvements at the Ohio Expo Center through the Expo 2050 Master Plan, and I am confident that both the Fair and Expo will continue his legacy of excellence and dedication to the youth of Ohio for years to come,” she said.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Mary Mertz, who also serves as a member of the Ohio Expositions Commission, will chair the committee responsible for identifying candidates for the general manager position. Details about the position and how to apply are available at and Job applications will be accepted until September 1, 2023, with the goal of having a new general manager in place by the start of the new year.