Fair superintendents: A year-round leadership opportunity

Being a volunteer superintendent is a yearlong commitment to the fair and 4-H youth development program.

Summer is a time for vacations, being outside and enjoying warm weather. It also means fair season for many 4-H members, families and volunteers. The fair is a great opportunity for 4-H members to showcase the hard work they have put in on their 4-H projects. All of this does not happen without the great leadership of fair superintendents.

The Lenawee County Fair is an agricultural society-ran fair with a division dedicated to 4-H youth. The superintendents in the 4-H division work countless hours all year long in order to assure a safe, fun-filled week for 4-H youth. In order to serve as a superintendent, volunteers must have knowledge of their assigned project area and be able to work cooperatively with others. They must have strong organizational skills and successfully complete the Michigan State University Extension Volunteer Selection Process. Let’s take a look at a fair superintendent’s responsibilities.

Throughout the year, superintendents attend monthly meetings related to their assigned project area and serve on appropriate committee meetings. They must be available to answer questions about the project area throughout the year, provide input on changes to fair guidelines and secure volunteers to assist during the week of fair to assist with clerking, judging and other critical responsibilities. Superintendents and their committees are responsible to make continual improvements to their project area to ensure its current relevance, quality and age-appropriateness, and to make their project interesting, educational and fun for members and leaders.

Superintendents support the project area work that happens in 4-H clubs by serving as a resource and topic expert. Superintendents must be knowledgeable about educational resources, publications, skillathon kits, videos and other media related to the project area. Superintendents are often asked to assist with educational clinics or workshops related to their project area to prepare youth for exhibition leading up to the fair.

While it is the fair board’s responsibility to maintain fair facilities, superintendents have first-hand knowledge of the condition of the barns and equipment used by youth in their programs the most. For this reason, superintendents must monitor fairground facilities used for the project area to ensure buildings, grounds and equipment are safe, secure, well-lit, working properly, adequate, clean and painted, and recommend improvements to the fair committee or fair board.

Most importantly, superintendents must serve as a positive adult role model for youth. They must strive to foster skills and behaviors in youth that extend beyond the fair and into their lives. Superintendents are more than the project area experts and work horses; they are a critical component of the success of a local fair.

The next article in this series, "Fair superintendents: What is their role during fair?," will explore what superintendents are responsible for during fair week and the responsibility of a superintendent in providing leadership during exhibition.

For more information on getting youth involved in 4-H, contact your local MSU Extension office or visit the Michigan 4-H Youth Development website. Being a superintendent during fair is a great way for adults and teens to advance their leadership skills. The Leadership Civic Engagement Work Team offers many educational opportunities to help teens and adults develop skills that can assist them in their leadership development.

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