Skip to main content

Marla Calico, CEO of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions Interviewed on Growing Your Future Podcast

By: Prodigy
02/20/2023, Springfield, MO // PRODIGY: Feature Story //

Marla Calico is the President and CEO of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) and has contributed over three decades of expertise, leadership and advocacy in the agricultural community. Calico shared her thoughts as being “Grateful for the opportunity… working with people and an industry who are the salt of the earth…they are the best in the world. The people who run state fairs and county fairs across the world… they are truly passionate about what they do. There is no room for mediocrity; they want to improve that [fair and exposition work]. And, I get to be a part of that every day and I am grateful for that every day of my life,” Calico said.

Calico’s path to CEO was not expected. She had multiple scholarships in the field of music. “But, something came over me and I just didn’t feel like it was the right path,” she expressed.

She declined the scholarship. She Investigated the medical field and that did not yield an internal calling either. Upon looking for a summer job in the familiar area of 4-H (Head, Heart, Hands and Health), she ended up with an unexpected opportunity. “I was referred to the Ozark Empire Fair, the second largest Fair in Missouri. It is also one of the top 100 Fairs in the United States. They were hiring in the livestock department,” she recalled. Having experience with her local 4-H, FFA (Future Farmers of America) and clerking at her local county fair, these experiences made her a perfect fit and future that has become her passion. “This opened up my eyes to a world of possibility of working in the agricultural fair industry,” she said excitedly. She has spent nearly 30 years in this industry, culminating in the role of CEO of the Ozark Empire Fair.

Her accomplishments also include being elected as the chair of the board of the IAFE. Prior to this, she spoke across the country about the IAFE. During these opportunities to engage with constituents, fair and expo executives and partners, “There are so many lessons that I learned along the way,” she stressed. Along with these lessons, the other contribution to her success is finding support. “Two mentors changed my life forever,” she said with conviction.

Advocating for the breadth and depth of contributions that expos and fairs give to the country as a whole is a priority for Calico. These organizations provide jobs in a variety of fields from supporting livestock growers to marketers as well as nurturing the participation of the younger generation of future agriculture workers and innovators. “Giving back to the community is critical and the willingness to share…it is absolutely at the top of the pile. When you are in high school and college, you are still learning. But, when you are an adult you have a responsibility to lead. You have an opportunity, a responsibility to set the example of what those around you could be, should be and what people aspire to be. It is imperative that you give back,” Calico said wholeheartedly. Her life is spent about half of the year on the road sharing life lessons and job opportunities. “It’s a hard lifestyle, but it is my life. That’s giving back…to give an introduction…to give an opportunity for people to spread their wings is what we must do as leaders,” Calico said passionately as she described her leadership role in the Fairs and Expos industry.

Fairs and expos also serve communities during emergencies across the country. Shelters for the medically needy, hurricane emergencies and fire staging in the west along with other critical services that are made available to communities. “The Department of Homeland Security considers fairgrounds and state fairgrounds as critical commercial infrastructure. Fairgrounds are designed to hold large, vast quantities of people. They have the unique skill set to provide appropriate animal housing in times of crisis,” she explained.

When talking about the industry as a whole Calico said, “We have an active movement to grow our future leaders. It is absolutely imperative that we do that. I am proud that Fairs and Expos are doing this across the globe,” she said confidently.

Listen to the full podcast interview by Aaron Alejandro with Marla Calico on your favorite podcast channel

· iTunes

· Spotify

· Audible

· YouTube

· Mission Matters

In this podcast, the host covers:

Marla, what are you grateful for?

Marla, would you walk us through your life story and how you ended up at the IAFE?

How important is giving back?

Can you give us a snapshot about the scope of opportunities available in expositions and fairs?

Marla, how important is it that students and teachers embrace best practices and ethical management?

How important is advocacy in agriculture: sharing the best practices and good things in this industry?

Advocacy includes understanding how your government operates, understanding how policy is made, advocacy means being an involved citizen, do you agree?

What are three leadership tips for Agricultural Science teachers and FFA students?

What is your favorite concert?

About the Podcast Host and Guest

The Texas FFA Foundation’s purpose is to strengthen agricultural education and the Texas FFA program, so each student can develop their potential for personal growth, career success and

leadership in a global marketplace.

Learn more about the Texas FFA Foundation at

Learn more about the IAFE at

Media Communications

 Mission Matters Podcast Agency distributes the Growing Our Future Podcast


Media contact and published by KISS PR

Source: Adam Torres / Co-Founder

Release ID: 519631

Original Source of the original story >> Marla Calico, CEO of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions Interviewed on Growing Your Future Podcast

Data & News supplied by
Stock quotes supplied by Barchart
Quotes delayed at least 20 minutes.
By accessing this page, you agree to the following
Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.