FALCON HEIGHTS, Minnesota — Jerry Hammer's Minnesota State Fair career actually started when he got his first job in the greenhouse as a teenager back in 1970.
"I really looked forward to spending time out on the fairgrounds, doing all the flowerbeds and the landscaping while being outdoors every day. As a 15-year-old, having a job where you get 40 hours without working nights or weekends — it doesn't get any better than that," said Hammer.
Hammer's seen a lot of growth over five-plus decades at the fair, where he's spent the last 26 years as the general manager.
He also navigated the fair through the pandemic, having to cancel the annual Great Minnesota State Get-Together in 2020.
"2020 was a lot of uncertainty, while 2021 was trying to produce something safely under some pretty trying conditions. That made this year so much better to have the fair really come back in a big way," he said. "The truth is, I likely would have been gone before now if not for the pandemic. How do you jump ship? I'm supposed to go down with it, so how do you do that in a crisis? Well, you don't."
Having grown up just a block away — and now living just a few blocks away — from the fairgrounds means that even with retirement before next year's fair, Jerry won't really be leaving his fair life.
"I know yet, there's a role to play. The fair is a cast of thousands, and I look forward to playing some role, but I'll just take a little time and see where it winds up," said Hammer.
Jerry's only non-State Fair job was a short stint for a few months as the sports editor at the Owatonna People's Press right after he graduated from college.
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