The League began as a means for a newly appointed director of an agricultural exposition center to meet others who did comparable work and pick their brains about facility design, management, and operations procedures; I was that person, David Mott, former manager of a cost-recovery professional development business in higher education whose clients included professional organizations and whose training and development I designed and funded through registration fees, grants, and sponsored events.
In the winter of 1996 prior to my first show season, I reached out to other facility managers with the hope they could be convinced of the benefits of attending such a meeting, and I hosted the first event at my facility in Georgia. The following fall, Bill Chambers, an attendee of the first meeting, contacted me to find out where the next meeting would be held. Appreciating his enthusiasm, I easily convinced him to host the second meeting in 1997 at his facility in Maryland.
Subsequent meetings yielded the appointment Bill and several other facility directors to an Advisory Board whose task it was to see that the meetings continue, identify facilities to host these meetings, and reach out to corporate sponsors to seek funds necessary to underwrite the events’ expenses. Future meetings were held in Tampa, Tunica, Lexington, and other locations. Eventually the Advisory Board, as directed by the latest meeting attendees, formed an organization that was incorporated.
The result of this effort was the creation of the League of Agricultural and Equine Centers whose objective it was to provide education and networking opportunities for facility directors and their staff to learn from one another, create a training program that could be articulated into a certificate program, and seek to represent the facility end of the nation’s livestock exposition industry whose other stakeholders included breed, performance, and competition entities from across the country. We sought to spoil our customers, lower our overheads, and maximize our revenue streams by learning from the successes and failures of others.
In the winter of 2003, as the meeting had evolved into a Symposium, the first directors and officers were elected to the Board and I was voted the first Chairman of the League. My role in the initial symposiums was logistics, marketing, and communications in addition to developing the curriculum and schedule for each event. I served in this role from 1996 until 2004, and lost my eligibility to serve on the board because my facility was closed for business in 2003. I accepted an invitation to the 2004 Miami Symposium and was awarded the title of Founder of the organization.