Karen Nicklas has never missed attending The Great Frederick Fair.
Now she’s its general manager.
“I love my job,” she said on Wednesday. “There’s never a dull moment. We have 219 days until the fair from [Wednesday]. There’s always something new. There’s always so much to learn, so much to do, so many things that we can work on to improve and change.”
When Nicklas was in college, she interned at an agriculture public relations firm in Frederick and got involved at the fair.
She became programs manager in January 2015 and executive assistant in November of that year.
As programs manager, most of Nicklas’ focus was on the exhibits themselves.
“We also share a lot of duties around here,” she said. “There’s five full-time [employees] in the office, and we all wear many hats.”
The promotion, which adds duties including the overall administration of the fair, came after Nicklas completed the International Association of Fairs and Expositions’ Institute of Fair Management in December.
It took three years to complete and consisted of about 30 courses, with topics such as human relations, health and safety, facility maintenance and marketing.
“You’re learning from industry representatives that have had more experience than most people in the classes, and then you gain a network of people,” she said. “Something really cool about the fair industry that may be different than others is that we ... borrow each other’s ideas or just share what you learned in your experiences, and so it’s really cool because we created that network of fair family.”
Colby Hubble, who is on The Great Frederick Fair’s board of directors, said Nicklas is enthusiastic about agriculture and the fair itself.
“She’s very good at promoting the fair because she’s very creative at coming up with new ideas,” Hubble said.
She also said Nicklas’ biggest asset is her willingness to learn.
Nicklas also serves as the fair representative on the State Amusement Ride Safety Advisory Board, is on the Maryland FFA board of directors and is a member of the Frederick County Farm Bureau, serving on the subcommittee for Farm Bureau Safety Camp.
She grew up on a dairy farm in Thurmont, and her dad is a dairy farmer.
She wants to continue passing on her family legacy to fairgoers.
“More and more now because people are so fair removed from farms, they don’t know where their food comes from, and it’s super important,” she said.
But it’s broader than that. One example is Machinery Row at the fair. There, people can see millions of dollars’ worth of equipment from combines all the way down to lawn mowers.
The prices of these items are compared to those of things like houses or Cadillacs, allowing visitors to gain perspective about an industry they may not be familiar with.
The fair also has a birthing center and a fiber tent where people can learn about plant and animal fibers and see animals being born.
“For our farmers and our ag exhibitors, [the fair is] an opportunity for them to showcase what they’ve raised and what they’re proud of,” Nicklas said.
It’s also an opportunity to teach kids about agriculture.
The fair partners with Frederick County Public Schools to allow 5,000 elementary school students to take field trips to the fair.
“We are Frederick County’s largest agricultural classroom,” Nicklas said.
Hubble said she loves that the fair concentrates on agricultural education.
“We’re always trying to come up with educational — not only just educational things but hands-on educational ideas so that especially — all of our fairgoers, but especially the kids, can have a chance to really just get in there and see how it’s done and have an opportunity to try some of the different tasks themselves,” she said.