Fairs’ youth scholarships have big impact on communities

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RICHMOND—The president of the International Association of Fairs & Expositions believes scholarships awarded by fairs have a huge impact on their communities, and that’s why the organization is collecting data from its 1,200 member fairs.

“After only 92 fairs reporting, which is less than 10 percent of our membership, thousands of scholarships worth more than $30 million have been awarded. That’s a lot of impact on your communities,” Marla Calico, IAFE president and CEO, told members of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation board of directors on May 24.

IAFE is a nonprofit organization that represents more than 1,200 fairs around the world and works to promote agricultural fairs, shows and expositions. The VFBF purchased the State Fair of Virginia in 2013 and is an IAFE member.

Since that purchase, the fair has awarded more than 500 scholarships and has dedicated more than $150,000 to youth education. The fair offers up to $70,000 each year in scholarship money through 4-H, FFA and vocational competitions and specific equine, fine arts and horticulture competitions.

The annual Sale of Champions benefit auction, which was resurrected at the 2015 State Fair, helped fund more than $16,000 in scholarships to 4-H and FFA youth who exhibited beef cattle, sheep, meat goats and swine in 2016. Funds for the scholarships represent a portion of the proceeds from the sale.

“We are proud to showcase these young people’s hard work and to invest in their futures,” said Marlene Pierson-Jolliffe, the fair’s executive director. “It’s important to us to contribute to our local agricultural communities through these scholarship programs.”

Calico said fairs also contribute to localities when they form community partnerships. Last year the State Fair of Virginia teamed with Food Lion for Hunger Relief Day. Visitors who brought in five cans of Food Lion-branded products received a discount coupon for adult admission to the fair.

The food was donated to FeedMore to help the nearly 200,000 Central Virginians who face hunger.

“One of our fair’s most important goals is to create exceptional community connections, and this certainly accomplishes that,” Pierson-Jolliffe shared.

The hunger relief day will return this year on opening day, Sept. 29. The 2017 State Fair will run through Oct. 8.

Media: Contact Greg Hicks, State Fair of Virginia media, at 804-290-1139.

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