The Southeast Alaska State Fair will be seeking a new executive director and board chair following its annual membership meeting Aug. 25.

Kari Johnson, who has led the Haines-based regional event since Dec. 2018 – including three years of complications due to COVID-19 – told members she was leaving the job to return to her career as an athletic trainer and to devote more time to her young children.

Describing the fair’s top job as “a kind of crazy job with a million things to do,” board chair Spencer Douthit commended Johnson’s performance, saying she handled job stress “incredibly well.” Douthit, who has been living in Anchorage, also is leaving the organization.

Johnson reported that fair attendance increased 20 percent from 2021, due largely to the opening of the U.S. border. The fair wasn’t held in 2020 and 2021’s fair saw an estimated 50 percent attendance drop from previous years.

“We’ve cut expenses but we’re gradually getting back to normal on the financial side,” she said. “We’ve learned a lot about what we can live without in the past two years and that will help the budget in the future.”

To address a declining number of submitted exhibits, the fair will hold a series of demonstrations and “craft days” to engage more young people during the winter months, she said.

Johnson said midway rides and food booths were the fair’s big draws. She said she was proud of having added the High Country Games to the roster of annual fairgrounds events.

She said the fair is working on a strategic plan for Dalton City, including how to maintain it and who should be considered for building rentals. There’s demand for the weathered buildings, but many are requests for office space and they sometimes become storage units.

Johnson said the Klondike Saloon building foundation is fixed and the adjoining deck may be repaired before winter. As the fair recently purchased restaurant equipment there, rental of the restaurant space is likely to increase from $550 per month.

Last week’s meeting included election of new board members. The fair board’s next meeting is Sept. 13. A volunteer appreciation dinner will be held 6 p.m. Sept. 9 at Harriett Hall. The Back Country Games will be Oct. 9.

Johnson said the top challenge of serving as executive director is balancing the fair’s many needs. “The job can definitely be rewarding and fun.”