Ag Ed awards top CCF honors
By KAREN SCHWALLER
SPENCER – The Clay County Fair was the recipient of three first-place awards – including one for overall ag education – at the 125th annual International Association of Fairs and Expositions Convention earlier this month in Las Vegas, Nevada.
First place awards included Overall Agricultural Program for the Non-Agricultural Fairgoing Public; Fair and Sponsor/Partner Joint Exhibit Program for the fair’s partnership with the Clay County Farm Bureau for Grandpa’s Barn; and Best Mobile Website.
The fair also received nine other awards, some of them also relating to agriculture.
Jeremy Parsons, Clay County Fair manager, said he and the fair board were especially proud of their top placing in the category of Overall Agricultural Program for the Non-Agricultural Fairgoing Public.
“It’s a combination of everything we do – Grandpa’s Barn, Ag-Citing, FarmHer, ag industry days, the Farm Gadget Show – anything we do to educate people about agriculture,” Parsons said.
He added the ag awards are very important.
“In our division, we finished ahead of the Missouri State Fair and the Florida State Fair,” Parsons said. “All these categories are based on attendance, and our category is Division 3, which is for fairs with attendance of 250,000 to 500,000.”
“We’re competing against a lot of other state fairs instead of county fairs.”
Another first-place award was given in the category of Fair and Sponsor/Partner Joint Exhibit Program and featured the fair’s partnership with the Clay County Farm Bureau for Grandpa’s Barn, a place where people can learn about farm animals and learn ag facts.
“Grandpa’s Barn in and of itself has expanded,” Parsons said. “The first year we just had animals. Two years ago we added a crop plot (with ag facts), and this last year we added the Ag Cab Lab.
“That area will continue to expand because it’s an area of the fair that is now a main stopping point on fairgrounds.”
Parsons said Northwest Iowans are sometimes surprised at what non-agricultural people don’t know about agriculture, but the Clay County Fair offers them a chance to learn and experience the agriculture life.
The final first place award was for “Best Mobile Website,” which Parsons said is key in today’s busy world as increasing numbers of people are accessing information about the fair from their phones or other mobile devices.
The Clay County Fair also won second place for New or Unique Division of Competitive Exhibits with the Farm Gadget Show, new to the fair in 2015.
It showcases the creative genius of farmers and groups of people who have invented something that can be used on the farm.
“The Farm Gadget Show opened up a door for us to a whole new area of exhibitors we don’t normally reach,” said Parsons. “For example, the 4-H and FFA members who really enjoyed shop and creating things in ag class in high school now have an outlet at the fair to showcase their great inventions.”
The Farm Gadget Show also took third place for the Agricultural Award category of “what was newly established or developed at your fair to promote agriculture?”
Other second-place awards included the cell phone category, a competitive exhibit area in the photography department; their electronic newsletter, and “Sponsorship Continuity” – an award for the Clay County Farm Bureau sponsoring Grandpa’s Barn.
Other third place awards were the fair’s brochure, radio ads, a competitive exhibit display photo and the City of Spencer’s recycling efforts on the fairgrounds.
Parsons said the IAFE awards program allows member fairs to enter competitions based on competitive exhibits, agricultural education and communications.
The entries are evaluated and judged by teams of industry leaders.
“The cool thing about it is that at that convention, we can take ideas from other fairs to use here,” Parsons said. “Everybody (in the industry) works together because we know our goals are the same – not only provide our communities with a good time, but also educate them about agriculture.”
He added that the awards, especially the ones in the agriculture categories, are justification for the fair that their programs on educating people about agriculture are working.
“We’re billed as the ‘World’s Greatest County Fair’ so how do you justify or quantify that?” he said. “Awards like this from an international trade group like this is good.
“All these awards are judged by other fair people who are not in your category, so that means people from fairs larger than us were judging in our category,” Parsons added. “It’s also cool because we’re being recognized by peers in our industry as well.”
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