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Mississippi Valley Fair organizer wants to ensure its longevity

“I just loved it. I grew up right next to it and always came here when I was a kid.”

DAVENPORT, Iowa-- Mississippi Valley Fair general manager said the annual event is his passion and he's looking forward to next week.

Shawn Loter is in his second year running the show at the fairgrounds in Davenport. He's worked there for nearly 30 years.

"I just loved it," he said. "I grew up right next to it and always came here when I was a kid."

Loter said he was 13-year-old when a grounds manager stopped him and asked if he wanted a job. Last year was his first as the new general manager.

Since he started, he's renovated the nearly 100-year-old white and blue towers that greet thousands of visitors each year. He also repaved a parking lot for go-kart racing. Next up is renovating the grandstand.

His coworkers said he's brought a new outlook and attitude.

"It's just a new, youthful enthusiasm here with Shawn as manager," said Vicky Speth, the fairgrounds office manager. "Shawn has been here for most of his life since he was 13-year-olds and worked outside... He knows what needs to be done outside to spruce the place up."

Speth, who has spent the last 32 years working at the fair, said Shawn helped vendors and the office adopt technology to accept credit cards. There's also online entry now for competitions. Speth said entries are up this year as a result.

Loter said he's already thinking ahead to next year when the fair will celebrate its 100th year.

"You keep new things on the grounds, keep things fresh, I think it'll keep people interested," he said.