"Never give up on your dream:" Kathleen O'Leary reflects on first year as CEO of Wisconsin State Fair

NOW: “Never give up on your dream:“ Kathleen O’Leary reflects on first year as CEO of Wisconsin State Fair

As the Wisconsin State Fair draws to a close, Kathleen O'Leary is reflecting on her first year as CEO. In its 166 years, there's never been a woman in charge...until now.

"I love from an empowering standpoint of making a difference in women's lives and showing people that never give up on your dream," O'Leary said.

O'Leary has been with State Fair for 20 years. She has been an integral part of its growth by helping bring sponsorship from $150,000 to upwards of $2.5 million dollars.

She spent time in marketing and worked her way up the ladder. Last year, she earned the Executive Director title.

She says a lot has changed in two decades including more women in leadership roles.

"I have about 10 directors that are female and they are all strong, dynamic, amazing women that understand life/work balance and that is no easy feat. Not at all. But I profess that that is something I believe in. I'm a widow. I have 3 girls. And they look at me and they see that I can do it, they can do it. We work together to do it," O'Leary said.

O'Leary also says that technology has changed a lot in the past few years. That impacted everything from security to how guests interact at the fair. The one thing she says hasn't changed is family.

"It's the young families. It's' the young parents that are bringing out their young kids because that's what they did when they were young with their families with their moms and dads. And now they want to start their traditions with their kids. It's amazing. It's wonderful." 

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