By Linda Chion Kenney
After 25 years as the Hillsborough County Fair manager, Tom Umiker is stepping down, but he doesn’t plan to go far from those left behind to take it to the next level, including Suzanne Holcomb, the newly named manager.
“We truly owe a lot to Tom Umiker for making the fair what it is today,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White. “He really put the Hillsborough County Fair on the map.”
Florida Strawberry Festival Manager Paul Davis agreed.
“Tom Umiker is an iconic person,” Davis said, “and my go-to guy. When I started my job, I would call him on a daily basis to get information and ask him, ‘What would you do?’ ‘What should I do?’ I truly am going to miss him, but I still know he’s always a phone call away.”
Taking over Umiker’s job is Holcomb, a mom raising her kids in the fair tradition, who herself was a 4-H student growing up in the fair. Holcomb joined the Hillsborough County Fair six years ago as a volunteer and most recently worked as the fair administrator.
“There’s not many people who give everything he’s given to the fair for as long as he did,” Holcomb said about Umiker. “Tom meant a lot to this fair.”
Umiker said he started with the fair when it moved from the Florida State Fairgrounds to the then-Tampa Stadium, nicknamed the ‘Big Sombrero’ and briefly known as Houlihan’s Stadium. There until 2005, the fair found a tentative home at the Barn at Winthrop on 11349 Bloomingdale Ave. in Riverview.
With phosphate trust fund money, private donations and thousands of hours to carve out the land, the County Fairgrounds took root at its permanent home off SR 60 in Dover at 215 Sydney Washer Rd.
Funding for two livestock buildings is working its way through the Florida Legislature, set to be built adjacent to an indoor and outdoor exhibition pavilion used for a variety of purposes and rentals, including weddings and fundraisers.
The 2020 fair is scheduled for Saturday through Tuesday, October 17-20 and 24-27, with an emphasis on educating and preparing kids for showmanship. For rental and fair information, call 737-3247. Visit www.HillsboroughCountyFair.com to learn more.