Erin Gurtel is the new director of the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, being named after 14 years in marketing at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.
Gurtel, who grew up in the community of Black Diamond in south King County, said she’s never shown animals like many attendees at the Spokane County Interstate Fair, but she’s been around them most of her life.She said her family had a llama named Rocky, a pygmy goat, geese and chickens. Livestock still is and always will be a huge part of Spokane County’s fair, but Gurtel said she’s watching national fair trends, hoping to grow the other aspects of the event as well.
“People come here to create memories and experiences with their families and friends,” she said. “We want to keep building on that, and we want you to come to the fair and see added value for that ticket price.”
Gurtel said this year’s fair theme, “Pirates of the Carrots and Beans,” builds off one of the main performances during the fair, a pirate high-diving show. Gurtel said fair staff worked together as a group to come up with the theme.
Gurtel replaces Rich Hartzell, who worked at the fair for 13 years, spending eight as director.
“(Hartzell) made a positive impact in how things are run here, and I want to continue on with what he’s built and take it to the next level,” she said.
Before working in marketing and sales at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, Gurtel was marketing coordinator for the Downtown Spokane Partnership. She said when she first moved to the area about 19 years ago, Spokane residents didn’t spend as much time frequenting businesses downtown as they do now. While with the partnership, she promoted holidays and worked to improve the perception of the downtown atmosphere.
A 1997 graduate of Washington State University, Gurtel also has worked in organizing Seattle-area festivals such as the Fremont Fair and Bumbershoot.
Last year’s Interstate Fair broke attendance records, with 205,997 tickets sold over the 10-day event. Almost 41,000 of those were sold on the last day.
Gurtel said she is currently working as director, but still doing much of the marketing and event booking duties she had as marketing and sales manager. She was one of 24 candidates for the job as director, four of whom were interviewed for the position. She will be paid about $69,000 a year
For this year’s fair, Gurtel hopes to bring in new experiences and showcase old favorites such as agriculture, crafts and livestock. She said a few people already have stopped by the office to talk and learn about this year’s fair.“There’s a lot of people that the fair really means a lot to them,” she said.