HAMBURG — The Erie County Agricultural Society has named Bryan Wittman the honorary chairman of the 175th Erie County Fair.
Wittman, a Hamburg native, is currently vice president of Global Special Events for Disney Parks and Resorts. His volunteer fair responsibilities include guiding the strategic creative planning process for 175th fair events and promotions.
“We are extremely proud to welcome Bryan back into the Erie County Fair family,” said Dennis Lang, Erie County Fair CEO. “For the past nine months, Bryan has been consulting with our board of directors and special events team in various stages of planning the biggest fair in our history.”
Celebrations, special events and family entertainment have been part of Wittman’s professional life for more than 35 years. In his position as vice president of Global Special Events for Disney Parks and Resorts, the Hamburg native is responsible for the creative development, management and production of major special events and marketing projects for Disney Theme Parks and Resorts around the world.
Through Wittman’s leadership, Disney has created and produced grand opening events, festivals and movie premieres in its parks and resorts, as well as in public venues worldwide, including in New York City’s Times Square.
Wittman is also charged with developing Disney Cruise Line christenings and special-themed events, and has served as the creative force behind Disney productions at a number of Super Bowl© halftime shows, as well as Pasadena’s Rose Parade. In 2008 and 2012, he judged the Rose Parade, the only person in the history of the event to have served twice in that capacity.
The new honorary chairman’s foray into the world of entertainment began with his first job at the Erie County Fair in 1975; he worked as a stage manager at the outdoor theater. From there, he rose through the entertainment business ranks in executive positions with Darien Lake, the Marriott Corporation, Six Flags Theme Parks and the Ice Capades.
Wittman attended Saint Francis High School and is a graduate of Ashland University in Ohio, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in TV production. While he works around the world, he and his wife Kathy maintain residences in Orlando, Florida, Siesta Key, Fla. and Hamburg.
“I was 17 years old when I began working at the fair,” Wittman said. “My official title was stage manager for the outdoor theater. In that role, I enjoyed the privilege of working with many talented Western New Yorkers, including the ever-popular Ramblin’ Lou Schriver and his musical family.
“Of all the many wonderful memories from my fair career, the most lasting are of touring the grounds with then Fair Manager Paul Laing,” he added. “Paul loved the fair and he had very definite ideas on what fairgoers’ experiences should entail. It was fascinating to me how he looked at the people who came through the gates and his ideas on how they should be treated. He was always about delivering the best in guest services, hospitality and entertainment.”
Wittman said that everything he learned, while working at the fair, inspired him to focus his career on the live entertainment field.
“I absolutely loved the work,” he said. “I always enjoyed interacting with the entertainers and adding creative touches that made their shows exciting. But, at the end of the day, the greatest reward of my career is something that I first experienced at the fair. It happened every time I would look out into the audience, during a performance, and see all those smiling faces enjoying the show. It was the best reward and one that has inspired me in my career travels from the fair’s Avenue of the Flags to Disney Parks and Resorts.”
Wittman called the Erie County Fair “a cut above the rest,” because of the talent and dedication of the fair’s leadership, staff members and volunteers, “who work, year round, to make it the best in America.”
He said that he remembers the hard work and commitment to excellence exemplified by everyone who worked at the fair, “all of which helped the Erie County Fair to grow and evolve into a celebrated national event. Truthfully, in my job today, I equate Disney theme parks to bigger versions of the Erie County Fair, because it is that special.”
The Erie County Agricultural Society is a private not-for-profit membership organization. Established in 1819, the society is the oldest civic organization in WNY.
It does not receive funding from New York state or from Erie County. The stated mission of the Erie County Agricultural Society, which sponsors the Erie County Fair, is to preserve and enhance, by educational endeavors, the agricultural and historical legacy of NYS.
The ECAS will host its 175th Erie County Fair next year, Aug. 6 – 17.