UNT alumnus Kelly Pound exhibits creativity at State Fair

Kelly Pound ('80) (Photo by Ahna Hubnik)When Ford Motor Co. relaunched the iconic Ford Mustang in 1995, it wanted to make a splash. Ford, a longtime exhibitor in the State Fair of Texas' Auto Show, turned to then-show director Kelly Pound ('80).

He facilitated placing a large wooden crate stamped "wild animal" in front of the Esplanade Cotton Bowl at Fair Park, and Ford's Mustang ran free on the morning of the Red River Rivalry between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma.

"It was difficult to convince my co-workers that a launch like that made sense. It had never been done before," says Pound, who joined the fair in 1989 to expand the auto show and has since evolved his role as director of all exhibits. "That reveal bolstered our positive reputation and, now, we're the premier place in the country to launch trucks."

Under Pound's guidance, the auto show's presence has expanded beyond the Automobile Building to occupy more than 300,000 square feet of exhibit space, including the Centennial Building, outdoor Truck Zone, Classic Corral vintage vehicle exhibit, and Chevy Ride & Drive attraction.

"In the beginning, my job was all about sales and helping manufacturers understand why they needed to exhibit at the State Fair," says Pound, whose role evolved to director of all exhibits. "After a few years, the manufacturers started creating intricate exhibits. My job shifted to referee and telling them 'No, you can't put up a 10-story exhibit.' Their exhibits have become secondary entertainment areas at the fair."

The late nights Pound lived as an art student in UNT's College of Visual Arts and Design well prepared him for the long hours he works during the State Fair's annual run.

"I was very close with everyone in my program and we had fun every day. We spent a lot of late nights in the Art Building and it was difficult, but I grew tremendously," Pound says. "You don't know pressure until you've had to stand in front of your classmates and show your work."

Though he hasn't worked as a graphic designer in nearly 30 years, Pound uses his creative side daily and draws on a lesson learned in art school when tasked with a new project -- like completing 100 thumbnail sketches to make sure no detail or idea lacked consideration.

He credits UNT art and design instructors at the time -- including now Professor Emeritus of art Mack D. Vaughan Jr. ('42, '49 M.A.), Danielle "Denny" Fagan ('68, '76 M.F.A.) and Carl Finch ('75, '79 M.F.A.), who went on to Brave Combo fame -- for challenging him and helping him become a better artist.

Pound is continuing to look for ways to maximize every inch of space at Fair Park and foster new partnerships. In 2011, he started the Texas Wine Garden.

"We had a piece of property that was all brick with a Live Oak tree growing in the middle of it. We couldn't sell it as a business space so, with approval, I brought in some of the wineries in North Texas and the Hill Country," Pound says. "It's really taken off and two years ago we added Texas craft beers."

Additionally, Pound helped create a pathway for companies unable to commit as full-time exhibitors at the fair to become sponsors, so they could still have a presence and contribute financially.

"We received inquiries from a lot of mobile tours, like Microsoft and Google, that wanted to present for three or four days, but our exhibitor contract requires attendance for all 24 days," Pound says. "As a result, we created sponsorship opportunities allowing them to present a few days with funds directly contributing to the fair's Youth Scholarship Program."

With countless exhibitors, performers, vehicles, visitors and Fletcher's corny dogs visiting Fair Park each fall, Pound describes his work at the State Fair of Texas as creative, innovative and, sometimes, a whirlwind.

"By the time the fair gets started, it's management by frenzy," he says. "But I'm already thinking ahead to next year."

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