Brandi Herndon wasn’t sure what she wanted to do when she graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in agriculture business, but the perfect job was about to open up.
“I was thinking about a bank job or perhaps going to law school,” she said. “I guess it was destiny. A job that fit me perfectly came open.”
Herndon took a position as entry coordinator for the Tulsa State Fair, and 15 years later she is director of agribusiness for Expo Square.
She was recently honored by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry and Oklahoma State University as one of the Significant Women in Oklahoma Agriculture.
Herndon oversees one of the busiest agribusiness schedules of any public facility in the country.
“We have a lot to sell,” she said. “We’re located pretty much in the middle of the country, and we’re easily accessed from anywhere in the country.
“Secondly, we have great facilities. We have modern and well-kept facilities, and we’re adding more space. Plus, our experience in handling major events is a sales point when we go after these shows.”
Horse and livestock shows, along with the continued success of Tulsa State Fair livestock shows, makes Expo Square one of the country’s hubs for major horse and livestock shows.
More than 40 major events were held last year at Expo Square’s deluxe, renovated and soon-to-be-expanded livestock facilities and arenas.
Five barns are capable of accommodating about 2,000 stalls, and there are three indoor climate-controlled performance arenas: the Ford Truck Arena, Mustang Arena and Super Duty Arena. A new barn is being constructed adjacent to Fair Meadows that would allow for 384 additional stalls.
“It’s sort of the perfect job for me because I grew up going to these livestock shows,” said Herndon. “I have a passion for it. I never dreamed it could turn into a career for me.”
Herndon’s first job at Expo Square landed her squarely in the midst of a major event: the Tulsa State Fair. She was in charge of a show with about 20,000 entries and about 10,000 animals in the facilities.
“I thought it would be fun, and it was,” she said. “It just kind of grew from that point.”
About 10 years ago, Expo Square created an agribusiness department to handle the growing number of horse and livestock shows scheduled for the facilities.
“At the time, we were completing and working on renovations to the livestock complex,” said Herndon. “Obviously, we now have one of the nicest and best livestock complexes anywhere in the country.”
Expo Square is buzzing this week with the Chili Bowl Nationals auto racing at the River Spirit Expo Center. All sorts of other events are on the way, such as boat shows, garden shows and consignment sales.
Later, in the spring, Expo Square will begin hosting this year’s slate of national and international horse and livestock shows.
“We usually start getting busy in March, and then we’re pretty much booked up all the way until December,” said Herndon.
Many of the shows will run two to three weeks and draw competitors and interested folks from around the globe.
“It is amazing how many people come to these shows, and they come from everywhere,” said Herndon. “It has a huge impact.”
The Tulsa State Fair remains a huge agribusiness draw. The 2017 Tulsa State Fair saw 28,458 animal entries. The Tulsa State Fair Junior Livestock Auction sold 147 championship animals and raised $516,000 for Oklahoma agricultural youth.
Plus, 167 animals were born in the Tulsa State Fair birthing center during the 11 days of last fall’s fair, which featured 187 livestock and horse shows.
“We have the facilities they need, and our staff really knows how to do these shows,” Herndon said. “We can turn around the facilities for the different requirements of these shows pretty quick.
“We understand what they want and how to get it done.”