By Desiree Johnson

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON – Twenty years ago, before the Bell County Expo Center existed, John Dungan was busy planning the first Central Texas State Fair.

Taking up only 20 percent of the parking lot, the fair featured a handful of booths and carnival rides and had an attendance of a few thousand people. Dungan, who was acting as the operations manager in 1987, was responsible for setup and operations at the tiny fair. He fell in love with the job and hasn't managed to leave since.

"For over half my life, I've worked in the venue business, and you just have to love the public," Dungan said. "You have to like what you're doing and be self-motivated."

Managing a fair that has grown to host some 40,000 people is not a difficult feat, he said.

In the past, the fair has played host to National Aeronautics and Space Administration exhibits, a Czech heritage day, skydivers and more in an effort to stay current.

"I had no gray hair when the fair started," Dungan laughed. "It's something about the fair!"

Some attractions at the fair have been around for a while. The demolition derby, for example, is in its third appearance, and Professional Bull Riding has become a pillar of the fair's festivities. Dungan's favorite over the years has been the diversity of musical entertainment the fair brings to the area.

"When we contract-signed Alan Jackson, he was just getting into his music career," Dungan said. "Then his album went No. 1 on the charts, and he still performed at the fair."

Dungan's expertise at organizing fairs has been a big help to getting everything running smoothly each year. Tim Stephens, Bell County Expo Center executive director – and a big fan of the fair – appreciates what Dungan brings to the event planning.

"It's really valuable that he's knowledgeable about the facility and our history," Stephens said. "It gives him a great perspective."

Working long hours serving as assistant director of the facility, Dungan plans to take a break from his busy schedule this weekend to enjoy the fair. While he doesn't get on the rides, Dungan will participate in one of the fair's most enjoyable traditions: the food. He says it's hard to beat a corn dog and lemonade, but says his favorite is, hands down, funnel cake.

"I try to limit myself to only one each year," Dungan said. "You know something that good can't be good for you."

For more information on the Central Texas State Fair, check out

Contact Desiree Johnson at at call (254) 501-7559

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