Alameda County Fair CEO and Pleasanton resident Rick Pickering will face major new challenges before the New Year dawns.
Last Friday, Rick was named the general manager of the State Fair in Sacramento. He will take the new position on Dec. 28. He takes over an organization and a fair that has nowhere to go but up. The retiring GM convinced its board to shift the fair away from its traditional Labor Day weekend dates and it hasn’t paid off with a jump in attendance.
Pickering took the helm at the Alameda County Fair 14 years ago after the fair had suffered a shooting on July 4th. America’s birthday has not returned to the same hours since that day, but the non-profit organization that operates the venue has seen substantial growth in both fair attendance (up 44 percent in the last four years) and revenue—up 2.5 times since he arrived. The fair now ranks in the top 1 percent of fairs nationally.
During his tenure, he restructured and streamlined operations while venturing into entrepreneurial opportunities—the fair can rent metal detectors to other venues with crowds as well as provide massive generators. He was an influential figure in horse racing across the state and oversaw a big increase in the training operation in Pleasanton once Bay Meadows closed its track in San Mateo.
Rick earned his Eagle Scout recognition and continued to invest in boys through Scouting during his career. He is finishing up a term as president of the San Francisco Bay Area Council and earlier this year was honored with both a Silver Beaver award and a Distinguished Eagle Scout Award. His three sons all are Eagle Scouts. Notably, Mike Faber, another Pleasanton resident, will succeed Rick as president of the council in February.
I know Rick well enough to know that he wasn’t looking to move to the state level and had passed on other opportunities, but the chance to lead the industry statewide and put together the team to breathe new life into a moribund State Fair was too great a challenge to pass up.
The county fair board will have big shoes to fill when he departs later this month—although he will be working closely with the existing management group and the fair board to ensure an effective transition.