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Clay County Fair scoops up 14 awards

SPENCER–The 2019 edition of the Clay County Fair (CCF) was one that was noticed by others in the ‘fair world,’ as it scooped up 14 awards and cemented fair manager Jeremy Parsons into a leadership role in the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE).

This all took place at the IAFE convention held earlier this month in San Antonio, Tx.

“Fourteen awards is unprecedented for us,” said Parsons. “It’s good to get feedback from other fairs and find out if the programming we’re (presenting) is quality, and how it stacks up against other fairs. Obviously an awards competition like this is a good way to see where you stand–literally–with the rest of the world.”

Parsons said fairs compete (and are divided into categories) based on their attendance numbers. The CCF’s attendance falls in the category of 250,000 and 500,000 people. Because of that, the CCF competes mostly with state and international fairs domestically and from as far away as Australia.

“We bill ourselves as ‘The World’s Greatest County Fair,’ so these awards really validate that,” said Parsons.

The awards

The CCF won four first-place awards, including “Newly Established or Evolving Program Promoting Agriculture to the Fair-Going Public” (Ag Ambassador program); “Agriculture Communications” (a new Facebook platform) and took top honors in two categories in “Agriculture Individual Photos.”

The 2019 Fair Ambassador Program involved Clay County 4-H and FFA members and was designed to reach out to–and educate–general fairgoers about agriculture and “fair life” through social media posts.

Parsons, saying fair-goers are communicating more and more via mobile phones and social media, said this program was meant to get the agriculture and fair life message out to those who choose that medium as their primary learning tool.

The CCF also received first place in “Agriculture Communications,” as it switched from its traditional communication practices to using social media in their open class horse department.

“We were looking for something more targeted as we thought about communicating with the horse exhibitors, because there are so many of them. We got a good response from that Facebook group page,” said Parsons, giving credit for the idea and the page to horse show superintendent, Holly Wolford.

The fair also took top honors in “Agriculture Individual Photos” in two categories, including “Horticulture and Crops” and “Equine.”

The fair was also awarded third-place honors for changing the way swine exhibits were entered into the fair in order to prevent a swine disease outbreak.

“We developed new procedures, protocols and policies,” said Parsons. “There was not a lot of time to put that together, but we were able to gather a good group of people to get a plan in place, and we implemented that plan successfully at the fair.”

Parsons said one new part of the fair that earned them third-place honors was the new “Bite by the Barn” program.

“We have felt good about the ag education we have been providing for kids–especially with our third grade ‘Ag-Citing’ program, but we realized we had a large gap at the adult level,” he said.

He said Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in Clay County developed the project, whereby fair-goers learned about agriculture by visiting particular barns and listening to experts in those industries. They also experienced some hands-on education.

“Basically it was an adult ag education field trip,” said Parsons.

Other fair awards included:

• Second place for their ag ambassadors introduction video.

• Third place for a new or unique animal competition – which was recognizing the

smallest and largest horse in the open class division.

• Third place for a unique bull riding challenge photo.

• Second place for the Balloon Masters display at the fair.

• Third place for best magazine ad (for the fair’s concert line-up).

•Second place for the fair’s daily guide for fair-goers.

• Third place for the fair’s Instagram campaign.

• Second place for the fair’s weekly front-page ad campaign in the local daily newspaper.

Parsons and IAFE

Parsons was also named the second vice chair of the IAFE at the December convention. That role will allow him to assist with executive responsibilities associated with the organization, which will (in turn) prepare him for his role as IAFE chairperson in 2022.

The role is a five-year commitment to the fair industry, by the time he evolves into and out of the chairperson position. He will also be the second youngest chairperson to ever have that role.

“It’s nothing I went after–the nominating committee approached me,” he said. “It’s a great honor–very few county fair individuals achieve the honor of chair of the IAFE. Literally only a handful have done that in the 140-year history of the IAFE, including my predecessor, Myles Johnson.”

Parsons said it speaks well to how the CCF is represented domestically and internationally, and in the fair world.

Parsons has been CEO/manager of the CCF for the past eight years.

Past CCF President Dave Simington was also presented with the “Heritage Award” for his many years in volunteer fair management.

The IAFE is a voluntary, not-for-profit corporation that serves state, provincial, regional and county ag fairs, shows and exhibitions and expositions. It represents more than 1,100 fairs around the world and more than 900 members from related fields.

The IAFE allows member fairs to enter competitions based on competitive exhibits, ag education and communications. Entries are evaluated and judged by teams of industry leaders–peers in the fair industry, which Parsons said makes the awards all the more meaningful.

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