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Love Is A Cattle Field

The Tanana Valley State Fair has a new executive director and a mostly new staff. They are ramping up for a summer of preparation for the fair which will be the first week in August. At the fair association annual meeting last week, the punny agricultural theme of the fair, as well as headliner acts were revealed.

Dr. Mahla Stohmaier has been on the job for five months. She hopes to bring her long experience with non-profit organizations to the Tanana Valley State Fair Association after what has seemed like a revolving door of general managers coming and going from the fair in recent years.

“We want this to be the fair that everyone looks forward to again.”

There are some updates planned: the ticketing is going all digital. The physical layout of the grounds is changing. Entry dates are moving forward so contestants can plan better. Prizewinners will be paid within days instead of after the fair. Strohmaier says these little changes are about fixing relationships.

“By fixing I mean I want to present a fair where people will notice and give it a second chance if they’ve stopped coming. I want vendors to notice that we are different and give us a chance if they stopped coming as a vendor.”

Strohmaier says she still hears people reference the 2016 incident when two musicians were stopped while performing and asked to leave, because a fairgoer thought their act was violating family-friendly standards. The misunderstanding was recorded and went viral on social media.

Since becoming Executive Director in November, she has dealt with insurance companies with built-in baises against certain types of music. But boasts 2019 will have diverse entertainment, and if the fair can recruit sponsors, it will all be free, except for one headlining concert by Uncle Kraker, on August 3rd.

You make me smile.

The fair association had a booth set up at a recent trade fair where Strohmaier introduced her new staff and reported on the association’ annual meeting.

“We looked at the minutes, we looked at the bylaws and thanked former directors, we did elections for new seats, and then the pirates that I brought up from California took the meeting hostage.”

“What? It wasn’t a hos… well, it kind of was… Hostage? More like… They, uh.. All right, we did.”

And those are the two pirates. They were at the trade fair, too. Ronnie Rodriguez and Ted Shred. Rodriguez is a perfect double for Jonnie Depp and goes by the stage name “Ronnie Depp.”  

“The pirates are very fun. It’s amazing how much people like to just talk to them. Or grab their butts. I’m told that one of them had a very sore rear end yesterday.”

“Really. You’re going to let me put that on the radio.”

“I will let you put that on the radio. I think its representative of Fairbanks. We are unique.”

The fair has the same entertainment coordinator, Tony Taylor,  as last year, when the fair had big names like Little River Band perform at ticketed concerts in the hopes of raising the entertainment bar, and raising more money. But this year the fair is hoping for sponsorships so that the gate price stays the same, and the daily entertainment is free. In addition to the pirates, the fair has hired the Fearless Flores family, whose Globe of Death you might know from America’s Got Talent.

Oh and the theme, which has to keep up the awful pun tradition of recent years? Love is a Cattle field.

Monica Bonis is the new volunteer coordinator

Karen Lane is new as the Operations Director this year.






Fair Board chooses long-time Fairbanksan as Executive Director

The Board of Directors for the Tanana Valley State Fair Association (TVSFA) is thrilled to welcome Dr. Mahla Strohmaier as its new Executive Director, and share the news with the Golden Heart of Alaska. According to Stephen Rice, President of the TVSFA Board, “we had the opportunity to make real, substantive, and long-hoped-for change at the fair by ushering in new leadership, and that’s just what we’ve done by appointing Dr. Strohmaier as our new executive leader.”
Dr. Strohmaier is a lifelong resident of Fairbanks, where she attended University Park Elementary and Ryan Jr. High, graduated from West Valley high school, and received her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. After completing a Master’s Degree at the University of North Texas, and later her Ph.D. at Purdue University, Mahla returned to UAF. Over the course of nearly 30 years Mahla was responsible for everything from teaching communication courses at UAF to managing the Associate of Arts Degree through the Community and Technical College. Dr. Strohmaier has also spent considerable time serving on boards for, volunteering at, and consulting with local nonprofit organizations.
“With her breadth of education, experience and commitment to Fairbanks, and all she has to offer, we are fortunate that she has stayed in Fairbanks, because Fairbanks is home,” said Board President Rice.
“The Tanana Valley State Fair has been an integral part of my life since I was a kid,” said Dr. Strohmaier. “I grew up looking forward to attending the fair every summer – it was definitely the grand event of my childhood summers, because it was fun and there was something for everyone.” As a young adult Mahla reports she eagerly shared the Fair with her husband, Mike Walsh, after they met at UAF, and then with their two daughters who were born and raised in Fairbanks.
“The Fair has always held a special place in my heart,” Mahla said, “and like all of us in town I have seen the ebb and flow of the fair, and decided there was something I could do about it as the new Executive Director. That something is to bring a new vision of leadership to the organization, strengthen its staff and financial foundation, rebuild excitement for the Fair and share that with our community. But it’s not just talking about positive change, it’s about making it happen – the 2019 Fair will be awesome.”
The Tanana Valley State Fair was founded July 7, 1924 and is the oldest fair in the state of Alaska. It will celebrate its Centennial Anniversary in 2024. The nonprofit Tanana Valley State Fair Association (TVSFA) is the governing body and has an open membership to the residents of the Tanana Valley. To learn more about supporting the Fair, joining the TVSFA, or becoming a volunteer, please contact the Fair at (907)452-3750 or by visiting