Meet Minnesota State Fair's new CEO

This week Renee Alexander officially took over her new role as the CEO of the Minnesota State Fair. She becomes the first woman to run the fair and the first new CEO in nearly 30 years.

In February the Minnesota State Fair announced Alexander would take over the role after previous CEO Jerry Hammer stepped down after 27 years on the job. Alexander now becomes the 23rd person to hold the title and lead one of Minnesota’s biggest events.

"We look at ourselves as stewards," Alexander told FOX 9. "This fair belongs to the state of Minnesota. This belongs to the people. And we're here to carry it forward and hopefully make it better for the generations that come after us."

Alexander may be new to this role, but she has a long history with the fair. She’s a Coon Rapids native and started her career at the fair as an intern.

"I actually started as an intern in 1989, and I was here for five years," Alexander said.

state fair CEO as intern

Renee Alexander, pictured on the right, as an intern at the great Minnesota get together. (Photo courtesy Minnesota State Fair) 

After that, she worked for 11 years in live event production outside the fair. In 2005, she returned to the Minnesota State Fair with a focus on live event production. Since 2006, she’s been in charge of booking entertainment acts for the Grandstand.

"I have been booking the Grandstand for the last 18 years. So yeah, I have the pleasure and responsibility of putting together a 12-night lineup of Grandstand entertainment throughout the season," Alexander said.

She has also spearheaded other entertainment attractions like the Arts A’Fair, The Giant Singalong and Joyful World Mural Park. She says her more than 20 years of experience with the fair is pivotal to her new leadership role.

"The energy, the entertainment piece, is super important, but they're also the other aspects are as well. I mean, agriculture is a big part of what we do. Obviously, the food. I think the big thing that I bring to the table is I understand what it takes to put it all together. I understand the logistics. I understand the partnerships that you need and the relationships to put it all together," Alexander said.

She says while she may be the new face in charge, don’t expect the traditions of the fair to change.

"I mean the fair is, for a lot of people, is about traditions. And those traditions will remain. That is such the key of what our success is coming back and being able to do those same things year after year with friends and family. But we always add in some new things as well. It's really kind of a wonderful mix," Alexander said.

Something new she hopes to bring to the table is continuing the fair’s effort to bring more diverse vendors and attractions to the fair to better represent all of Minnesota.

"That's a journey that we will continue to be on. It's super important that all communities of Minnesota feel represented at the fair. So it's something we're looking at through our entertainment, through all of our programming, obviously with guests and everyone else - we want everyone to feel included at the fair," Alexander said.

One of Alexander’s first big challenges will be opening the Minnesota State Fair’s Kickoff to Summer event happening this weekend. The event started in 2021 in response to shutdowns during the pandemic. The event offers a "slice of the fair" including more than 30 food vendors, live entertainment and local merchants. The kickoff event starts Thursday at 4 p.m. and runs through Sunday.