The Western Idaho Fair will go on.
But its longtime director, Bob Batista, has resigned to take a job with Butler Amusements, Ada County officials announced in a press release late Thursday afternoon.
Batista has been director of the fair for 19 years. His last day will be in February, and the county has begun a search for a new fair director.
The Western Idaho Fair has been running for 121 years. It drew 235,000 people in 2017, according to data released by the fair.
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In their release, Ada County Commissioners praised Batista:
“Bob is the best in the business,” Commissioner Rick Visser said in the release. “His knowledge and experience in the fair industry is clearly evident by the record-breaking numbers of the Western Idaho Fair. It was a pleasure to work with him.”
Chairman Dave Case said the fair wouldn’t be what it is today without Batista’s “vision, direction and passion.”
Batista has won many awards for fair management over the years, including the Rocky Mountain Association of Fairs’ 2016 Hall of Fame Award. He is president of the Mid-West Fair Association.
The Western Idaho Fair is self-supporting. By marketing the site as Expo Idaho year-round, Batista was able to help build up the fair’s cash reserves to $3.5 million.
Under Batista’s direction, there were $7.5 million in capital improvements, including a new main gate ticketing building, renovation of the RV Park and the addition of Western Town.
The fair added a new permanent ride this year — the Sky Ride, which gives fair-goers a bird’s eye view of the fairgrounds as it ferries them from one side of the site to the other.
Batista, a Great Falls, Montana, native who has been working in the fair business since he was 12, offered thanks to his staff, the board and the Treasure Valley.
“I can’t thank the Expo Idaho staff enough for their knowledge and experience making the Expo Idaho grounds and Western Idaho Fair run very efficiently,” Batista said in the press release. “I also want to thank the Ada County Commissioners and the Expo Idaho Advisory Board for their ability to provide guidance and their willingness to empower the staff. Lastly, thanks to the Treasure Valley community for making my time with Expo Idaho remarkable and memorable.”