Extension agents applying childhood experiences to managing fairs.


Survival of county fairs is reserved for the fittest. Drawing on the experience of past 4-H years, several first year Kansas county Extension agents are now in the role of coordinating--rather than competing in--the fair.

"I see the change as a maturity issue, because you do see things differently," said Julene Sylvester, Pottawatomie County FACS Extension agent. "There is a responsibility to keep things organized and lined up with details 4-Hers may not see."

Returning to her home county, Sylvester said her perspective on the annual event has been modified with the new agent role. Preparing for her first fair in Onaga Aug. 2-5, she said she is thankful for the advice of those involved in previous years.

"Our office professionals help a lot by ordering ribbons and plaques, confirming judges and sending out letters to families," Sylvester said. "We have a strong, supportive staff with constant words of encouragement and motivation."

Although many ends are still loose, Sylvester said everything will be ready when the time comes.

"I am really excited and hoping for good results," Sylvester said.

"It is definitely a learning process, and it will all be worth it in the end."

"Agents do a lot more than I ever imagined in so many different areas," said Jason Stallman, Rooks County agriculture Extension agent. "I look forward to seeing what the 4-Hers are involved in and the projects they exhibit."

Stallman, an 11-year Reno County 4-Her, said his 4-H career centered around woodworking and rocketry projects, while Rooks County is more livestock-oriented. The fair is also nearly three times as large. With 122 years of tradition, Stallman said he hopes for continued success with the 2001 fair in Stockton, Aug. 13-18.

"My biggest fear is forgetting something important," he said.

"Everything seems to be moving pretty fast, and even through we have a late fair, we are still in the process of taking care of all the preliminaries."

In her first year as Geary County 4-H Extension agent, Ginger Kopfer said fair planning flowed together for the July 22-27 event in Junction City. Pre-fair events were a success, which she said is hopefully a taste of the smooth and efficient progress of the entire process.

"I don't think anyone realized how much work is involved to get a fair ready," Kopfer said. "Our office started working on it long before I was here and I have been working on it since I began in June. I am becoming more aware of the extent of preparation."

A 12-year Clay County 4-Her, Kopfer was involved in many livestock and plant science projects. With more than 250 4-Hers in the Geary County program, Kopfer said she anticipates a high level of involvement in various projects areas.

"I look forward to seeing how everything works in this county," she said. "From that point, we can find what continues to work and what we can improve. I'll be out at the fair full time once it starts. I will be a floater, which is fun to get to be part of everything."

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