What is a Champion of Change?  

How are fairs Champions of Change?  

Western Idaho Fair

Submitted by: Lonna Breshears

In 2019, Western Idaho Fair, along with our partner Mattress Firm, launch a Foster Kids Day at Western Idaho Fair. Mattress Firm is a long-standing partner of Western Idaho Fair and this year wanted to attach their sponsorship more closely to Foster Families in the Treasure Valley. Boise is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, and with this growth, the demand for foster families is growing. We brainstormed how best to deliver a great experience for Foster Families in the Treasure Valley. Western Idaho Fair ended up programming a day called Foster Kids Day presented by Mattress Firm. It included: • Hundreds of admission tickets and unlimited carnival wristbands that were distributed to Foster Families through Mattress Firm. Their admission also let them experience all of Western Idaho Fair’s free grounds acts: Bug-Ology, Kachunga Alligators, Nerveless Nocks, Meet the Animals, Hypnotists, Bands, Comedians, Jugglers, and the barns full of animals! • Free onsite activation for an organization called Fostering Idaho, which helps raise awareness for the need for foster families in Idaho and resources on how to become a foster family. • Promotion of the idea of fostering through Western Idaho Fair social media and media outreach. • Western Idaho Fair provided a free BBQ picnic for all of the foster families that attended the fair. Although, Western Idaho Fair provided much of the food necessary to feed the families, Albertsons grocery store donated premade salads, watermelons and breads. The picnic was held in a quiet and somewhat private area of the fair so that we could respectively provide for them while not creating any security situations. (They can’t have their photos posted and need privacy because of some of their biological family situations.) We knew that the foster families and foster kids would need a meal at the fair that day. Western Idaho Fair kitchen staff prepared the food which was then served by Bob Batista, Lonna Breshears and staff from Closed Loop Marketing. During this experience, we engaged with the foster families and foster kids, and we were blown away with the magic they were experiencing at Western Idaho Fair. Some of the kids had never been to the fair, never ridden a carnival ride, never seen a llama, the list went on-and-on. We noticed that a couple of the families didn’t receive enough carnival wristbands for their family by overhearing conversations. Our director ran back to his office, grabbed a few more and brought them back to the picnic to surprise the family. The foster mom started to cry when he provided them. When you have been experiencing the fair for as long as many of us have been, it’s easy to take for granted all of the goodness and fun that exists at fairs. On that day, in that couple of hours, it was hard to miss. That afternoon, we received many thank you’s, smiles, and hugs. These foster kids were in complete joy experiencing things they had never had the opportunity to be exposed to before. We soon realized how much change they were experiencing in their life that day. Their day was jam packed with activities, carefree, and for many described as the best day of their summer! Interestingly enough in reflecting on the impact of the day, it’s hard to decipher where the impact of change was greatest…the foster kids experiencing a magical day at Western Idaho Fair OR Western Idaho Fair staff who intrinsically were changed in the best way possible by these grateful foster kids who showed us the impact of one day at the fair!

Lisa Degner

Missouri State Fair - Food Drive

Submitted by: Kari Mergen

The Missouri State Fair is doing its part to help end childhood food insecurity in the state. For the past nine years, we have championed this cause with a food drive, working with many corporate and agriculture industry leaders to raise funds and provide food sources for those in need. The past three years we have partnered with the Missouri FFA Association for their Food Insecurity Service Day. This past Fair in 2019, Missouri FFA brought 750 members to the Fair to pack 128,640 meals to feed families of six people - that's a total of 770,760 people fed through this ONE DAY at the State Fair. In addition, nearly 17,000 pounds of food was collected at the gate from our fairgoers who brought in non-perishable food items in exchange for discounted admission; $175,000 was raised by donations which was presented to Feeding Missouri, the coalition of Missouri six food banks; 1,740 backpack meals were packed at the State Fair by agriculture and state elected officials; and produce from the FFA building exhibits was donated to food banks. In the nine years that the Missouri State Fair has hosted a food drive, we have donated more than 60 TONS of food. This initiative at our State Fair got its start in 2013, when the IAFE theme that year was "Dream Big" and Fair's were challenged to do their part to feed the hungry through food drive efforts, and it has grown every year. We're proud to be champions of change and making a difference in our state through our efforts and the efforts of our amazing partners.

Nebraska State Fair  - Flooding

Submitted by: Lori Cox, CFE

Catastrophic flooding in Nebraska cost farmers and ranchers millions in 2019.  This video shows the assistance and support provided by the Fair.  The Nebraska State Fair hosted a drop site for the Nebraska Department of Agriculture to distribute hay and supplies to affected areas with assistance from the Nebraska National Guard.  This effort yielded over 800 tons of hay were donated along with 350 man hours and miles of fencing.

Three years ago at the Wisconsin State Fair, youth swine exhibitor, Andy Boschert of Dodge County 4-H participated in the very first Wisconsin State Fair "All for One Swine Show". This event partnered swine exhibitors to mentor youth of different abilities and allow them to experience what it takes to show a pig in the show ring. Andy and his mother, a special education teacher herself, were so inspired, that after 3 years of Andy participating with his same partner and developing a lasting friendship that together, they decided to bring this idea to life at the Dodge County Fair. It was a year in planning with the Dodge County Fair Board and the Dodge County Meat Animal Sale Committee. Together with other eager supporters and advocates, the Dodge County Pig Pals Spectacular was on its way to become a huge success! Six senior swine mentors were excited to volunteer to give six youth with varying disabilities an opportunity to show a pig in the show ring. The mentors met their partners for the first time at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, August 18, 2019, and with guidance and coaching from Mary Pat Boschert, Andy Boschert and Kaitlin Neu, the friendship and learning began with swine facts, feeding, washing, grooming and learning to "walk the track" of the show ring with their pig, by 10:30 a.m. The partners along with their pig, entered the ring one by one so each group could have individualized spotlight on the new youth's talent as a livestock showman. A few questions were asked from the swine ring host before the Rosette Ribbon was awarded to the new swine exhibitor. Roaring cheers and applause filled the air as each group entered and the new exhibitors showed their pig, along with many tears of joys by parents, family members, committee and audience spectators. Afterwards, the new friends were off to enjoy some cream puffs or ice cream together from the Farm Bureau, 4-H, and Wisconsin Women for Agriculture Food Stands. Parents' appreciation was shown with hugs and thank yous for bringing this event to the fair and allowing their children to experience the fair in this very special way. Many families of both mentors and participants offered financial support to ensure this type of event continues and grows at the Dodge County Fair. A participant's mother stated in a letter to the editor of the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen newspaper, "this had significant meaning and worth to me; just to see her included and accepted. The show was organized and catered specifically for these kiddos. My daughter had a great time and it meant more that I can express in words to see her happiness. Thank you very much." Plans are underway to expand the Pig Pals event next year, to include adults with different abilities, and/or to invite other species to join in with similar events, so fair goers can learn more about the agriculture industry at the Dodge County Fair. Dodge County Fair was among other county fairs that have started similar events around Wisconsin, to engage others, make connections, and become agents of change in agricultural education and advocacy, while developing those youth leaders of our future generations. Dodge County Junior Fair, 4-H, FFA, and the Fair Board are Champions of Change.

Dodge County Fair, WI  - Dodge County Pig Pals Spectacular

Submitted by: Sally Schoenike

The Otero County Fair and Rodeo is celebrating 80 years this September. We have gone through several changes over the last 5 years. Our county no longer funds the salaries of the office manager and the facility maintenance worker, however our lease agreement, on the 21 acre facility requires us to keep it in immaculate condition. This was a huge obstacle for us to over come. We started a Friends of the Fair Sponsorship program and now are able to make payroll. Last year, for the first time in 30 years, we had free entrance at our fair. Our attendance went from 21,000 to 39,000. This was huge for us and proved we made the right decision for our community. We are excited to attend the IAFE convention this year and look forward to using the knowledge we gain to keep being a Champion of Change.    

Otero County Fair & Rodeo  - Friends of the Fair Sponsorship

Submitted by: Sheila Coca

The Sac County Fair has been in need of a new show ring and beef/sheep barn for several years. We have been making due with rotting off posts by sticking concrete blocks underneath, fixing electrical issues as they arise and fight flooding almost every year in both of these barns. We have been strongly discussing the need for new construction and various ways to go about it but as with all new buildings, the main concern is where the funds are going to come from. During fair clean up night this year, it was mentioned that the fair board is looking very strongly at replacing these two buildings in the near future and that everything we do on the fair grounds as a fair board is directed towards the youth and 4-H/FFA members as they are the future of our fair. This year during the bonus auction, we had one young man step up who also happened to be the first member through the auction. After the bidding stopped, he informed the auctioneer that he would like to donate $200 of his money towards the new show ring/livestock barn project. It took off like wildfire. By the time the bonus auction was over, these marvelous kids donated over $24,000 towards the project! This also inspired parents, businesses, and others to contribute an additional $4,000 in the fair office after the auction was complete. These kids showed our community, county, and fair board how much the fair means to them as well as what a bright future the Sac County Fair has ahead of it for many years to come.

Siouxland Boy Makes Giving Contagious

Submitted by: Amanda Weber

A Siouxland boy started a giving-back campaign right from the fair's bonus auction!


‘Mini-Ekka’ cheers patients up at Queensland hospital

Submitted by: Nine News - AU

Story of "Mini - Ekka" brought to a Children's Hospital in Queensland, Australia. (Learn More)

Credit: Channel 9 News, AUS

Salem Fair, VA / Deggeller Attactions - Maker's Space Donation

Submitted by: Carey Harveycutter - Credit: WSLS.com

Deggeller Attractions, a long-time partner of the Salem Fair, has donated $10,000 to make a Maker's Space at the local middle school.  “Thanks to this incredible gift, every Salem student who passes through middle school will now have a chance to create in this vibrant learning environment,” says Salem School Division Superintendent, Dr. Alan Seibert. “This new area will further advance our personalized learning initiatives, and it is yet another example of a private entity investing in our children.”

Credit: WSLS 10 News

Clay County Fair, MN - Garden Project

Submitted by: Emily Grunewald

Members of Humboldt 4-H gathered at the Clay County Fairgrounds on May 30th where they planted their community garden.  Their garden consist of onions, red and white potatoes.  Each week throughout summer, two families tend to the garden making sure it is watered well and all weeds are pulled. At harvest time, the club will gather again, harvest the garden and take all produce to the local Barnesville Food Pantry.

UPDATE: The 4-H harvested their garden on August 18 and donated 339 pounds of produce to the food pantry.  The largest donation to date!

Clay County Fair, MN - Facility Improvement Project: Poultry Barn

Submitted by: Emily Grunewald

Members of Humboldt 4-H gathered at the Clay County Fair on June 6th to paint the front of the shop/poultry/rabbit barn. 

Clay County Fair, MN - Facility Improvement Project: Planters and Picnic Tables

Submitted by: Emily Grunewald

Members of Humboldt 4-H in Barnesville, MN got together on June 9th to weed and plant two planters at the Clay County Fairgrounds.  They also built and painted five picnic tables for the fairgrounds and community members to use at the carnival area so fairgoers can sit down and enjoy the fair while their family enjoy the rides.  These tables were dedicated to two long time volunteers of the Clay County Fair; Gary Bergan of the Poultry Department and Brian Halverson a long time Board of Director.

State Fair of Texas - Jeanne Fagadau Leading the Charge Award for Outstanding Support of Dallas ISD

Submitted by: Dr. Froswa' Booker-Drew

The State Fair of Texas was selected as the recipient of the Jeanne Fagadau Leading the Charge Award for outstanding support of Dallas ISD. This award recognizes individuals or organizations who have been great advocates for schools and have also brought in others to expand and enrich the relationship. "Most definitely, your collaboration with us to serve students and staff has added many new opportunities and organizations to our district – and we are grateful! You make a difference in the lives of many! From your scholarships to State Fair tickets for students and staff, to teacher programming related to the fair, to networking with others to bring resources to schools within the Fair Park community, to sponsoring NXT FEST and other student leadership support… we are grateful for the depth of your engagement." State Fair of Texas sponsors nonprofit female leaders Alliance for Greater Works has created the Women's Alliance, an Executive Leadership Program designed to break barriers facing women and multicultural leaders in the nonprofit sector. The Women’s Alliance program weaves real-life nonprofit leadership case studies, panel discussions, hands-on experiential learning, and mentoring throughout the course. The State Fair of Texas has provided support for nonprofit leaders in the Southern Sector to participate. The State Fair of Texas funds 17 summer camps in the South Dallas area totaling more than $100,000 in support. In collaboration with Big Thought along with Parks and Recreation/City of Dallas, a cohort was created in 2018 to provide professional development training for summer programs in our area that we provide financial support. This year, the cohort culminated in a conference for providers on May 16 at the Briscoe Carpenter for summer and out of school time programs. The Summer Kicks Conference was sponsored by Dallas City of Learning/Big Thought. This free professional development included workshop topics such as social and emotional learning, building relationships, trauma-to-healing methodology, adding literacy to your curriculum, racial equity and more. The State Fair of Texas sponsors NXT Fest, a college and career fair for more than 400 students in partnership with the Dallas Independent School District and nearly 20 organizations in our local community. (see enclosed video) On May 30, More than 15 businesses competed for entry into the State Fair of Texas' Concessions Cohort. A panel of 9 judges sampled food and interviewed local food business owners interested in building their capacity. The Cohort for Fairs, Festivals and Expos (CFFE) was developed in 2016 and so far, 20 businesses have been involved and 13 businesses have completed the program which includes workshops, shadowing/mentoring by current vendors, completing deliverables such as a business plan and coaching. In order to increase the number of small business owners of color especially in the Southern Sector of Dallas, the proposed project is a dynamic education series for entrepreneurs by the State Fair of Texas, Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Development Center, and many other partners. The goal of the program is to take existing businesses to prepare their products for inclusion into festivals and fairs in the region. The six-month cohort comprised of 15-18 businesses will have both classroom, mentoring, and hands-on opportunities for growth and exposure to the industry. Workshops begin June 6. 5th grade MLK Elementary students had the opportunity to visit The University of Texas at Arlington in collaboration with Cornerstone Baptist Church and the State Fair of Texas.

Zone 4 Young Professionals Initiative

Submitted by: Beth Pomije

In March, the Zone 4 Young Professionals Initiative hosted a Food and Funds Drive to support Faith Temple Food Giveaway, an organization that holds a weekly gathering of food for families in the Zone 4 Meeting host city, Sioux Falls, SD. Zone 4 Meeting attendees were invited to bring non-perishable food items and/or funds, and raised over $626 and 375 pounds of food!

Western Fairs Association - Merrill Award

Submitted by: Jessica Underberg, CFE

Learn how Merrill Awards nominees, Central Washington State Fair and Lake County Fair are Champions of Change.  Central Washington State Fair for their fair farm building which has programs to engage children in agriculture.  And, Lake County Fair for their "Adopt the Fair" program, which partners with community members to provide improvements to the fairgrounds.

Cameron Murray - Erie County Fair Vendor 4H Steer Auction

Submitted by: Jessica Underberg, CFE

Join Cameron Murray as he discusses how the vendors and staff of the Erie County Fair pool together their money to purchase a steer at the 4H Steer Auction. The processed meat is then donated to the local Western New York Food Bank.

Wisconsin Association of Fairs

Submitted by: Jessica Underberg, CFE

Just got back from the Wisconsin Association of Fairs Convention and wanted you to meet Isabella Haen from the Kewaunee County Fair. In 2018 Isabella was named Wisconsin’s “Fairest of the Fair.” During the past year, Isabella travelled over 13,000 miles enthusiastically representing the agricultural fairs and the association. The opportunity provided by the Wisconsin Association of Fairs through the competition dramatically changed Isabella’s life as it resulted in personal growth, an increase in confidence and a continued dedication to our fair industry. Congratulations to the Wisconsin Association of Fairs for being a “Champion of Change” in a young person’s life. #ChampionsOfChange

South Florida Fair & Palm Beach County Expositions Inc

Submitted by: Marla Calico, CFE

Learn the South Florida Fair is changing lives by partnering with a local church group.  Submitted by IAFE President and CEO, Marla Calico.

Nebraska State Fair

Submitted by: Grand Island Public Schools (FaceBook)

The Nebraska State Fair entered the cobra weave chain reaction that students from Barr and Walnut Middle Schools and Engleman Elementary School presented at the State Fair in the International Association of Fairs and Expositions competition in the "Fair Activity to Increase Awareness of Competitive Exhibits" category. It was awarded first place. The winners are:Engleman Elementary - Jaycek Green, Kaelynn Joseph, Nolan Kier, Ella Mittelstaedt, Justin Niedfelt, Elizabeth Walton and Jordyn Watson.

Allegany County Fair, NY

Submitted by: Jessica Underberg, CFE

Join Mary Tripp of the Allegany County Fair as she discusses how the fair has implemented programs learned at the IAFE Convention to get their community more involved.  One program is the "Name the Calf" event to boost their agriculture department.

Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation

Submitted by: Jessica Underberg, CFE

Billy Puckett of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation discusses how the Foundation not only has a mobile 9-11 museum but also builds smart homes for amputee veterans as well as Gold Star families.  The Foundation also has a program to pay off the mortgages and start education funds for the children of first responders who are killed in the line of duty.

As a part of Wisconsin Association of Fairs' Annual Convention, Lisa submitted the winning entry for "Every Person Has a Fair Story" contest.  Degner's entry detailed her love of the fair and being chosen to demonstrate how to prepare a cow's udder for milking at the Wisconsin State Fair.  For more information on her winning story, as well as the runners-up stories, please visit "Udder demonstration story takes first place in contest" article.

Copyright The International Association of Fairs and Expositions. All rights reserved.