Hostetler to move on; fair names new chief
Ross Silkman is the new executive director of the Southeast Alaska State Fair.
Silkman is a nine-year veteran of the tourism industry who moved to Haines from Girdwood with his wife, teacher Akela Silkman, last fall. He was one of five applicants interviewed for the job.
“Ross has a professional quality about him that’s very appealing,” said fair board chair Jerry Erny. “He always seems calm. He has a ton of experience in the tourism industry and he sounds like a guy who might be sticking around for a while. One thing we’re looking for is consistency.”
Silkman worked five years for Alaska Wildlife Adventures in Girdwood and four years for Alaska Travel Adventures in Juneau. His jobs included managing and selling tours and operating a lodge on the Kenai River.
“I’m excited about it. It’s doing something a little bit different (but) I think it’s a good fit. I’m looking forward to it,” Silkman said this week.
Silkman replaces outgoing manager Kelly Hostetler, who started on the job January 2008 and leaves in June. Hostetler is relocating to Juneau to join husband Les Hostetler, a construction supervisor who has also served as an important fair volunteer.
During Hostetler’s tenure, the fair made a host of improvements, including renovation of Harriett Hall into a convention facility, Dalton City building improvements, renovation of all fairgrounds restrooms, and expansion of amusements and kids’ attractions.
The group also wrote a business plan. “We created a lot more community participation and interest, and have grown the event. It’s been a community and board effort,” Hostetler said this week.
Board chair Erny said Hostetler’s legacy includes establishing procedures and policies. “The most important thing Kelly did was to change the attitude of the fair, and she made the whole thing run in a more professional mode. I think that’s huge.”
Erny also credited her work ethic. “I don’t think most people have any idea how committed she was and how much time she spent there,” he said, noting that husband Les and daughter Hannah also worked long summer hours on fairgrounds improvements. “We’re really losing three people.”
Erny said the fair was “absolutely” in good financial condition. “We’re always nervous, but now we’re in good shape.”
Hostetler said this week she wanted to see the Harriett Hall job completed, including paint and landscaping, before her departure. “We have a lot of projects going. Everybody knows what they’re doing.”
Hostetler said she’s working with Silkman and will help out as possible from Juneau. A change in titles of fair management reflects a shifting of duties to incorporate assistant fair director Jessica Edwards, who will coordinate special events.
Besides running the state fair, fair staff help organize the Great Alaska Craft Beer Festival, annual Spring Fling party and membership drive, and the Haines Fishermen’s King Salmon Barbecue.
“Between Jess and Ross, they’ll be working out a careful balance so the job is more shared and it’s not a one-person show. That will help with continuity and the burnout rate,” Hostetler said.
The 43rd Southeast Alaska State Fair is set for July 28-31. The sixth annual Spring Fling is Saturday, May 7. Fair memberships are $25 for an individual and $50 for a family.