General Manager Virgil Strickler was among those to be honored with the FFA Honorary American Degree today at the 91st National FFA Convention and Expo today in Indianapolis.
The Honorary American FFA Degree is presented to Individuals who have provided exceptional service on a national level to agriculture, agricultural education or FFA.
Virgil Strickler has a lifetime of experience in the agriculture industry, and serves as the longest-running General Manager in the history of the Ohio Expo Center & State Fair.
Strickler’s dedication to the Fair industry dates back to his childhood. He grew up on a Fairfield County cattle, hog and grain farm, and participated in 4-H for 11 years and FFA for four years. He participated in both the county and state fair, showing cattle, hogs and grain, and participating in woodworking, welding and livestock judging projects. His family was selected as the “Fair Family of the Day” to tour the Ohio State Fair with Governor Rhodes in 1969; a photo of this visit is proudly displayed in his office to this day.
He began his career in 1979 at BancOhio National Bank in Circleville as an agricultural lender working with rural farmers to help fund their agricultural and commercial operations. From 1980- 1993, Strickler served as credit manager and manager of the livestock feeding program for Producers Livestock Association, managing credit and budget and assisted with community agricultural events, including working with the Ohio State Fair market lamb show and auction. He also served as township clerk for Clearcreek Township from 1986-1989, conducting public and zoning meetings and generating accounting, financial and budget records for the area.
Strickler has been employed at the Ohio Expo Center since 1993, serving as Agriculture Director, and continues to serve in this capacity, along with the General Manager position. Strickler was instrumental in implementing the nationally recognized Youth Reserve Program in 1995. This program has awarded $3,201,530 to approximately 33,600 youth exhibitors since its inception.
Following a national search for a new General Manager at the Ohio State Fair, he was selected for this position in January 2004. In this role, Strickler is responsible for the management of the Ohio State Fair and the more than 185 events visited by 3.2 million individuals at the Ohio Expo Center each year, leading and directing the agency’s 60 full-time employees, managing the budget, overseeing more than 20,000 agricultural and livestock entries annually, and more.
Under his direction, the Ohio State Fair has seen a plethora of innovation and achievement. The duration was shortened from 17 days to 12 to capitalize financially while maintaining a nationally-recognized livestock exhibition. The Fair has set, and broken, many attendance records, most recently in 2015 with 982,305 attending. Several buildings have been upgraded, improving the quality of experience for exhibitors with improved ventilation, new stalls and accessible facilities. Most notably, the 360-acre Ohio Expo Center has seen great improvements in the area of grounds beautification. During Strickler’s tenure, the Ohio State Fair has greatly expanded its greenhouse capabilities and currently grows approximately 40,000 plants and flowers each year.