State Fair Foundation’s Leader Loves Learning From Others

KSTP-TV’s Brandi Powell talks with Mary Chung, who guides the team that fundraises for the Minnesota State Fair

Brandi Powell is a KSTP 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS anchor and “Minnesota Live” contributor. She conducted this interview for Minnesota Monthly.

Mary Chung
Mary Chung


“There’s a certain amount of variety that’s the spice of life,” says Mary Chung, whose humble zest is part of the flavor she uses to guide the Minnesota State Fair Foundation. From agriculture to art to infrastructure, Chung leads the team that does fundraising for the State Fair. 

In her office on the Fairgrounds, Chung reflected on her life and leadership style. Her focuses: community and interesting people. “I love learning from people who have different life experiences than I do, or who know about things that I don’t, and I love sharing my experiences with others, as well.” 

Chung credits her journey to the executive director role of the foundation to her diverse personal and career adventures, stemming from her time serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama two decades ago, serendipitously the same time the foundation started. It was an experience that guides her current management style, which values different perspectives.

Chung said she often circles back to that philosophy and thinks, “I should be able to do this!” She reminds herself there is a beauty in the fact none of us operates in a vacuum. “In those times when I feel so stuck, I usually find that the answer comes by accessing the resources that I have around me. It’s asking other people for their experience, for their thoughts, or leveraging others’ talents, and others’ ideas, and that’s what gets me unstuck.”