By Conrad Dudderar
Mandy Davis has been named director at the Canadian County Expo & Event Center, having worked there since the facility’s July 2021 opening.
Previously the center’s office manager, the Canadian County native was named interim director in May.
“I am incredibly grateful, humbled and honored at the opportunity to serve our community in such a huge way,” said Davis, a Yukon High School graduate. “That’s what this role and job is – to serve the people of our county and to serve our commissioners well.
“I hope to make the community proud of what we’re able to accomplish out here for them.”
Canadian County Commissioners recently announced the promotion, selecting Davis as the permanent successor to Nathan Smith. The move became official at the Aug. 14th commissioners’ meeting.
“Mandy has demonstrated her skills in facility management and event promotion,” said Chairman Dave Anderson, the District 2 county commissioner.
“I have all the confidence in her to be able to continue to promote and market our new facility. The commissioners and the staff at the expo center are excited about the future of our facility under Mandy’s leadership and the impact it can make for our local economy.”
When she came to work at Canadian County’s new fairgrounds complex in mid-2021, Davis already had nearly 20 years of experience in the economic development and tourism industry.
The Canadian County Expo & Event Center, 3001 Jensen Road East in El Reno, has remained steadily busy with event bookings over the past 26 months.
The $20 million facility is preparing to host the 69th Annual Canadian County Free Fair set Aug. 23-26.
The Canadian County Expo & Event Center features a 19,000 square foot event center, 46,000 square foot indoor arena and 19,000 square foot open-air pavilion, along with around 15,000 square feet of office space.
The site – just south of Interstate 40 on El Reno’s east side – has hosted record crowds for the last two county fair fairs.
During fiscal year 2023 ending June 30, the Canadian County Expo & Event Center’s economic impact totaled $15.2 million. This was calculated using metrics provided by the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and approved by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.
The center hosted 54 events with 65,500 visitors during the 12-month period. Visitor numbers are tracked through ticket sales and post-event recaps with event promoters.
“We’ve booked 18 events just in the last six weeks,” Davis said. “We already have bookings into 2025, and one promoter wanted proposals for the next five years because they’ve seen such success here.
“That’s a real barometer of where we are as a facility – if our promoters are rebooking.”
Event rebooking rates have consistently stayed between 90-95%.
LEGS OF THE TABLE
Director Davis compared the Canadian County Expo & Event Center to a table, with four legs underneath providing support.
“What everybody sees, what’s on top of the table, are all the events and fun things that happen,” she said. “But if we don’t take measures to look at the structure and the strength of the legs – and make sure they’re balanced – nothing on top is going to work.”
Director Davis described the four legs:
- The economic impact through sales tax income that supports Canadian County.
- Fiscal responsibility to county taxpayers by spending every dollar wisely while ensuring proper facility maintenance.
- The county’s deep-rooted agriculture community, specifically those who made this facility possible and current 4-H and FFA members.
- Allowing county citizens to feel a sense of pride when walking through the doors – whether for a fair, trade show or special event.
“I want this to be a place we can host proms and graduations, and we can do things that help develop our community and make it stronger together,” Davis said.
The expo center’s new director credited the “incredible” team she works alongside. She envisions increasing her staff as the facility hosts even more events.
“They not only work hard; they work well,” Davis said. “They have a servant’s heart in everything that they do. When you look at our re-bookings and what people say in their closing surveys after events, it is our staff that makes a huge difference.”
Before coming “back home” to her Canadian County roots in 2021, Davis was executive director for two years with the Great Plains County Association – a nonprofit tourism promotion and marketing association for Oklahoma’s southwest region.
She previously spent 3-1/2 years as executive director for the Heart of Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce serving Purcell, Lexington, Goldsby, and Washington.
Davis began her career working at the Gainesville (Texas) Area Chamber of Commerce, where she gained valuable economic development over almost 11 years.
“I was able to sit beside and learn from people who really helped me understand why we do what we do,” Davis shared. “As much as any education, I look at those years as where I really grew from a professional standing.”
Looking to the future, Davis will support responsible expansion of the Canadian County Expo & Event Center as the county’s population continues to increase.
“As our county grows, the value that the expo center can bring is going to grow,” she said. “With any expansion, there must be a responsibility to the taxpayers.
“What are we doing and why are we doing it, and what overall impact will that have from a county health perspective?”