New Windsor resident Andy Cashman is the new general manager of the Maryland State Fair.
Cashman was selected for the position by the Maryland State Fair & Agricultural Society Board of Directors due to his time spent as assistant manager of the fair for the past 18 years. He also has previous experience as president and vice president of both the Baltimore County and Carroll County fairs, but said he first got involved in agricultural fairs when he was 9 years old as a member of the 4-H Club.
Thanks to his early start and the subsequent 45 years of service to the agricultural community, Cashman, 54, was the recipient of the Maryland Association of Agricultural Fairs and Shows' Fair Person of the Year award, equivalent to a hall of fame induction. He is the youngest person to ever receive the award.
The Times caught up with Cashman to find out how his experience has prepared him for this next step in his career and how he plans to improve the state fair.
Q: When did you move to Carroll County and why?
A: I grew up in Owings Mills but moved to Carroll County in June of 1986. I married a girl from Frederick, and Carroll County is kind of in the middle and New Windsor was where we located.
Q: You've been involved in fairs in one way or another your whole life. When did you know this is what you wanted to do?
A: It probably happened about 18 years ago. I had an opportunity where I was at a meeting and I heard the position for assistant general manager was open. I've always loved working for fairs; I've worked for Baltimore County and Carroll County's fairs, I was president and vice president and was live stock superintendent for the Carroll County [4-H] Fair for many years. I was the beast superintendent [in charge of livestock] at the Baltimore County Fair and when I heard this position was open I thought maybe it's something I might be interested in. So I came in, talked to the general manager and he said I'd be great and I've been here ever since.
Q: What's the biggest difference between county and state fairs?
A: It's size partly; some of the bigger fairs like Frederick and Howard and Montgomery are very large, then you have fairs like Carroll which are free fairs. That's a really big difference between Carroll and the state fair because it's free to get in during the day [at the Carroll County fair] and there's only a small commercial part of it. [The Carroll County fair] is based on the 4-H kids in the county whereas the state fair isn't free and is based on the agricultural community and the 4-H kids but there's also the carnival, horse racing and a lot more land involved.
Planning is also different. In Carroll you meet once or twice a month and just have committee meetings. Here, it's a full-time job. It never stops. It's constantly going on, we are constantly planning for the coming year and some of the things for the following year. We are already getting ready for 2016. We are constantly working on keeping the place running.
Q: How will your role as general manager differ from the assistant manager role you've filled since '97?
A: It's a higher level, I guess, because now everything stops with me. Before I had a person over top of me where I could run things to or ask how he thought. Now, I'm making those decisions. Now I have to be the one that people come to. I have to make the judgment calls and make sure it's the right thing to do for the fair and the agricultural community. It's a little different. There used to be a layer of comfort between me and him now it's just me.
Q: What has changed about the Maryland State Fair since you got involved?
A: Some of the agriculture animal shows have gotten smaller and we've gone after different attractions that are agriculture-related that educate. Some of the things we've done is to educate the people about the animals and about agriculture. People now, there used to be four or five generations since they worked on a farm, now there's six to seven, even eight generations from being on a farm. We need to make sure that people learn that agriculture is a vital part of the community.
It's still the biggest industry in Maryland — and in Carroll County. Since I was a kid, agriculture has changed a lot with increasing technology. It's just a big difference. Who ever thought we'd be working with cellphones and laptops, tracking our crops and livestock? The people need to learn that agriculture is a vital part of what we do.
Q: How will you continue to improve the fair as general manager?
A: I think we have some good ideas already. We're putting a team together, we've hired several people from Frederick County that were involved with their fair, to think of new ideas. One idea is to have a building with representation from each county in the state and highlight what each primarily does agriculturally. If it's Garrett County, it's Christmas trees and syrup; if it's along the Eastern Shore, it might be crabbing and oyster harvesting; and if it's central Maryland, it could be people talking about soybeans and corn and grain. We are trying to think of different things for each county to talk about and promote.
Q: As president of the Carroll County Fair for 15 years, and the several other similar positions you've held, how have these positions prepared you for a larger fair?
A: You're dealing with people, both the public and exhibitors, and all those things happening at the Carroll County fair go on here as well. We are trying to help and educate people and over the years that hasn't really changed. I grew up as a 4-H'er. I was lucky enough to be in 4-H and learn how to talk to people and be a leader. All the vital things that 4-H teaches are still used today. So many different agricultural things have changed since I was a kid but the educational part is so important and that is something that each fair has to be a part of and do.