Fair superintendents: What is their role during fair?

Fair superintendents work all year to make fair week an enjoyable event for all. Let’s take a closer look at what responsibilities they have during fair week.

If you look beyond the tempting food trailers at your local fair, you will likely find youth exhibiting a wide array of projects. Look a little harder and you will find adult project-area superintendents who are a critical part of any fair, providing leadership in areas they are experts in. The first article in this series, “Fair superintendents: A year-round leadership opportunity,” examined the roles and responsibilities these superintendents maintain throughout the year. Long before the fair opens, these superintendents spend countless hours preparing for the week. Let’s delve into the roles and responsibilities of a superintendent during the week of the fair. Spoiler alert: It includes more than enjoying those precious corn dogs!

Fair superintendents provide leadership to the overall functions of judging, exhibition and public relations in their project area during fair week. Superintendents need to be present and available at check-in, check-out and during show and judging times. Overseeing the setup, workers and cleanup of the exhibition facility is crucial in order to know where and what has happened to the projects.

Superintendents should greet the judge, review rules and expectation and introduce them to workers that may be assisting them. This can be done one-on-one or in a group when judging still project areas. A conversation with the judge prior to judging often prevents confusion and problems during the judging evaluation. Superintendents are also responsible for organizing the flow of judging, whether it involves creating an order of show for livestock shows or assisting with traffic flow and determining appropriate lunch breaks. Superintendents must monitor for safety at all times – equipment, exhibitors, spectators and workers.

Superintendents are responsible for the official record of judging results. While the judge assigns the rating or award, superintendents or their assigned clerks are responsible for recording the result in a book and submitting it to the office to become official record as well as what is used for payment of premiums, awards and recognition. Superintendents oversee the distribution of ribbons and trophies.

Superintendents have roles even when their assigned project is not being judged. Non-judging days are an excellent opportunity to educate the community on the specific project areas. Superintendents should be available to answer questions of the public or monitor the project or event area daily for health, safety, regulations and public perception.

Superintendents have many responsibilities throughout the week that ultimately ask them to take leadership for their project area. Along the way, superintendents foster important relationships with youth, develop a comprehensive understanding of the rules and regulations, and become experts in their assigned project areas. Because leadership doesn’t always mean being in charge, superintendents must learn to balance empowering volunteers and youth to take ownership for tasks to make the fair successful. When done correctly, superintendents serve as an important role model for youth who are also developing their leadership skills at the fair.

The Michigan State University Extension 4-H Leadership and Civic Engagement Work Team provides a variety of leadership trainings around topics such as youth voice, youth adult partnership, conflict resolution, communication, decision-making and personality types, to name a few. These trainings are for youth and adults. So next time you are at a local fair, look beyond the projects and see a group of outstanding leaders.

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