HELENA – On August 3, Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds manager Keith Hatch retired after 18 years.
Hatch managed the fairgrounds for eighteen years, and oversaw significant changes to the facility.
A new exhibit hall and grandstands were constructed during his tenure, which helped grow stampede attendance and expanded event offerings.
Since Hatch took the job in 2000, sponsorship and attendance of the Stampede and Fair has grown exponentially, and year-round revenue for the fairgrounds has increased by more than two-fold.
The Last Chance Stampede and Fair used to be 75 percent of the fairgrounds revenue, but is now only 40 percent due to an increase in funds from other events.
Hatch was well-regarded in his position and worked hard to change the perception of the fairgrounds in the community.
Former county commissioner Mike Murray worked closely with Hatch and admired his public relation efforts.
“He handled people who had problems with the fairgrounds legitimately, dealt with each one individually, and worked to correct whatever problem they had,” said Murray.
Lewis and Clark County Commission Chair Andy Hunthausen expressed the commission’s gratitude for everything Hatch has done and wish him the best in the future.
“It’s a tough thing that Keith is leaving, I mean, he’s done a great job for us,” said Hunthausen, “We’ll miss him tremendously and his work he did for the fairgrounds and Lewis and Clark County.”
Rodeo chairman for the Stampede Mike Gurnett worked with hatch for 9 years and said hatch is going to be greatly missed.
“I’m going to miss him,” Gurnett said. “I have so much respect for him, on so many levels. The ability to do a good job and be so behind the scenes and let others shine, that’s such a rare thing any more. I’m going to miss him, and I think the community will miss him as a public servant.”
Kevin Tenney with the fairgrounds has been named Hatch’s replacement.
“Keith was the best supervisor I’ve ever had,” said Tenney, “We saw a lot of success under him.”
Tenney believes he has some big shoes to fill but he is looking forward to the future of the fairgrounds.
“We lost a real treasure now that he’s moved on,” Tenney added.