Jessica Underberg, CEO & Fair Manager of the Erie County Agricultural Society, was recently elected as the 2019 Chair of the International Association of Fairs & Expositions (IAFE). The appointment took place during the IAFE Annual Convention in San Antonio, TX. During the course of the year Underberg will be the spokesperson for the fair industry visiting and speaking at fairs and events across North America. Underberg becomes only the second representative from Western New York to hold this international position following the election of former Erie County Fair Manager Paul Laing to Chair in 1990.
In 2017, Jessica was appointed as Chief Executive Officer & Fair Manager of the Erie County Fair. Her current responsibilities include all aspects of the 12-month operations of the 270-acre Erie County Fairgrounds. She leads activities related to the annual Erie County Fair, all non-fair events and oversees 50 full-time, 15 part-time and over 750 seasonal employees.
Her involvement in the Erie County Fair began in 1985 while participating in various exhibits in the Fair’s Youth Development Building. Underberg began working for the ECAS in 1996 when she began working part-time in the Fair’s Administrative Office. Following graduation from Canisius College in 1998, where she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Sciences, she joined the Society full-time. In 2000 she was named the Fair’s Agriculture and Competitive Exhibits Manager.
During Underberg’s tenure as Agricultural Manager, she drew deep into her own agriculture background having grown up on a family dairy farm in nearby Collins, New York. In 1999 she created the Fair’s AgSperience exhibit to bring fairgoers closer to farmers, their animals and crops. The success of this program resulted to the development and construction of the Agricultural Discovery Center in 2014. In 2010 she created the award winning Farm 2 Table educational program with the goal to teach students about the importance of agriculture in their lives, reinforce healthy nutrition and to engage their natural curiosity through a multimodal approach.
She actively participates in a network of professionals among national and international fair associations. In 2007, Jessica earned her Certified Fair Executive status from the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE). She has served on various IAFE committees and has been elected to numerous leadership posts including being the IAFE’s Board of Directors Zone 1 Representative from 2014 to 2016. In 2008 Underberg was on a team that helped develop the IAFE’s Young Professionals Initiative as a way to encourage a new generation of leadership among fairs across the world.
She is a member of the New York State Association of Agricultural Fairs where she served as the organization’s President in 2010-2011 and was on the Board of Directors of the Cornell Cooperative Extension from 2009 to 2011. She represented the Erie County Fair at the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth’s conferences in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2010 and Brisbane, Australia in 2014. She is a member of Buffalo’s Business First “40 under 40” class of 2014.
Underberg resides in Springville, New York with her husband Mark and her two daughters Lilly and Ella.
About the Erie County Fair
The Erie County Agricultural Society is a private not-for-profit membership organization. Established in 1819, the Society is the oldest civic organization in Western New York. The mission of the Erie County Agricultural Society (ECAS), sponsors of the Erie County Fair, is to preserve and enhance, by educational endeavors, the agricultural and historical legacy of New York State. The Fair strives to fulfill appropriate aspects of the agricultural, educational, entertainment and recreational needs of Western New York. The 2019 Erie County Fair is scheduled for August 7th -18th. (www.ECFair.org).
About the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE)
Based in Springfield, Mo., the IAFE is a nonprofit corporation, serving state, provincial, regional, and county agricultural fairs, shows, exhibitions, and expositions. Its associate members include state and provincial associations of fairs, non-agricultural expositions and festivals, associations, corporations, and individuals engaged in providing products and services to its members, all of whom are interested in the improvement of fairs, shows, expositions, and allied fields. The IAFE was founded in 1885 with a half dozen fairs as members. Today, over 2,500 fairs, festivals, expositions and suppliers in the United States and internationally, are members of IAFE.