Women of Influence: Jennifer Giesike

A view from the top…

Jennifer Giesike has been at the helm of the Washington Town and County Fair, Washington, Missouri, for 22 years. This fair serves as the fund-raising arm for the city’s Chamber of Commerce. It is held annually in August. 

When Giesike first came on board in 2000, her duties were to the fair. In 2012, she became the Chamber’s CEO and president. A restructuring and streamlining of staff positions at the same time had her take the supervisory fair duties with her as the Chamber head.

Jennifer Giesike’s passion for the fair industry runs deep

Jennifer Giesike

WASHINGTON, Mo. — Being a part of the fair industry is not just a job for Jennifer Giesike.

It is and has been her passion, and there is no doubt, it also is in her blood. 

Giesike has been at the helm of the Washington Town and Country Fair, in Washington, Missouri, for 22 years. 

She grew up on a farm not far away from the fair gates. She began showing animals, primarily market pigs from her parents’ farm, at the age of eight years. She showed through the 4-H club until she aged out. Her two younger sisters did the same. 

Her father volunteered for the fair when she grew up. Her parents, David and Kathy Brockman, raised their family on a farm that had been passed down. In fact, the family has two farms in the area. One was passed to her father from his parents and the other to her mother from her parents. 

Giesike’s daughter, Hallie, has been showing pigs and steers since she was young. She, too, is about to age out of the program.

Giesike’s husband, Chad, volunteers at the Washington Town and County Fair, helping with the motor sports events. 

Except for the four years of college, Giesike has never been far away. She attended East Central College in Union, Missouri, for two years. She played volleyball there before she transferred to Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture. 

Yes. There is no doubt the fair industry is deeply rooted in Giesike’s life. 

But this hometown woman’s love for the industry hasn’t stopped inside her city’s boundaries. It has just been a catalyst for her to broaden her knowledge of the industry and become more entrenched on a national and international level. 

Since becoming head of the Washington Town and Country Fair in 2000, she immediately began stepping up in volunteer roles with the IAFE. 

She received her IAFE Certified Fair Executive (CFE) certification in April 2008. She graduated in the debut class of the Institute of Fair Management in December 2009.

She has served as the IAFE Zone 5 director and as the co-chair of the Young Professionals Initiative (YPI). She was awarded the first IAFE Young Professional Rising Star Award in December 2009, 

Giesike also has chaired the 2019 IAFE Annual Convention Program Committee, the CFE Committee, the Membership Committee and the County Fair Committee. 

 In 2020, she completed the IAFE Institute of Fair Management Leadership Graduate Track requirements. 

And it was during that year, 2020, she found out about her nomination to chair the IAFE in 2023.

“I’ll never forget,” she said. “It was the 5th of May 2020. COVID had shut down everything, and my staff was working from home. We had been having Zoom meetings, but I missed them, seeing them. My staff is so fantastic. I decided that I would buy a hanging plant for each one of them. I was going to drive around and put it on their porches and step away so we could talk a moment at a distance.”

Her first stop was at the Chamber of Commerce office. She had one staff person there to access the computers. 

“As I pulled up to the office, I got a phone call from Jessica Underberg of the Erie County Fair (Hamburg, New York),” Giesike said. “She said, ‘How would you like to be the IAFE chair in 2023?’ I was in shock. I couldn’t understand why me, my fair is small in comparison to so many others.”

Nevertheless, the shock wore off and the excitement set in. She was able to relay the news in person, plant in hand, to every person on her staff that day. 

“They were all so happy and have been so supportive,” she said. 

In thinking about 2023 and her role as the IAFE chair, she sees several important issues. One is the continued rising costs of named entertainment, another is the difficulty fairs are having in finding volunteers. 

“We need to find a way to get more volunteers and what to do with them when we do get them,” she said. 

Safety and security remain a focus. 

Not long ago, Giesike was asked about her favorite parts of her job and being a part of the fair industry. This is just part of the answer she gave.

“I love producing an event that allows families to attend and make memories. I love being able to showcase our youth in the community that show livestock and home economics exhibits. I love seeing the economic impact that the fair has on our community. I love seeing the volunteer spirit that our community has and being able to help all our volunteer organizations.

“I love what I do because I know what we do is good and that makes me happy.”

—Pam Sherborne

This article appears in the DECEMBER 2022 issue of Amusement Today.
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