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Hurst to enjoy fair; Parsons to assist and learn from Hurst

SPENCER, Iowa — Phil Hurst, secretary/manager of the Clay County Fair, plans to sit back and watch people enjoy the fair just like he does every year.

Hurst is retiring Oct. 31, and Jeremy Parsons, who headed up the Missouri State Fair Foundation, has been hired to replace him. Parsons, who started in August, will be at Hurst’s side during this fair.

Parsons, 34, said Hurst is an excellent fair manager and leaves big shoes to step into.

"The Clay County Fair is advertised as the world’s greatest county fair," Parsons said. "I want to make sure that title never slips."

Parsons said his job is to assist Hurst and the other staff, and experience as much of the fair as he can.

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Prior to becoming executive secretary of the Missouri State Fair Foundation, Parsons spent more than 15 years as an employee of the Decatur County Fair in Leon, the Iowa State Fair and the Missouri State Fair.

"My dad was president of the Decatur County Fair, and I grew up working there, and when I was 17, I got a job working at the Iowa State Fair," Parsons said. "I went to work the first day of summer vacation. That’s where I developed my love of fairs."

He taught high school English and coached for 11 years in Newton, Mo., and spent summers working at fairs.

Hurst said some of the highlights of his fair years include building the Casey’s Store near the camping area, getting the livestock pavilion constructed after heavy snow load caused the swine barn to collapse, building the new million-dollar race track and securing the World of Outlaws.

"What I have done in life has a lot to do with three things, faith, family and fair," Hurst said. "Sometimes I’m afraid fair and family have come ahead of faith. My intention is to shift that."

Hurst said he’ll miss the people he’s gotten to know locally and nationally through his work.

Hurst and his wife, Cheryl, plan to visit their son, John in San Antonio, especially during winter. Their daughter Sara Schmidt and her sons, Sam and Kael, live in Spencer, and Hurst said they are close.

"We’ll also spend some time with our coats on watching our grandsons play hockey," Hurst said.

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The fair staff and team will make a smooth transition for Parsons, Hurst said.

"We have a first-class team to hand off to Jeremy," he said. "They will help him tremendously."

In addition to a strong fair background, Parsons has one other thing that is a must for anyone running the Clay County Fair, a sense of humor, Hurst said.

"You have to be able to laugh at yourself here," he said.

Parsons said he’s amazed at how much the community and surrounding area support the fair.

"People in Spencer, Clay County, northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota take great pride in the Clay County Fair," Parsons said.

Parsons and his wife, Kelsi, have a one-year-old son, Creighton.

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