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Guidelines on the Educational Roles of County/Regional Extension Educators at County Fairs
The University of Wisconsin System has a three-fold mission in resident instruction, research and extension. In 1973, and again in 1982, the UW Board of Regents affirmed the historic commitment of all its institutions to public service and the public good. Concurrent with this reaffirmation was the assignment of the University of Wisconsin- Madison Division of Extension to lead, coordinate, plan and administer the extension function of the UW System.
Over the years Extension has demonstrated its strong support for county fairs. This is appropriate because county fairs can offer numerous educational opportunities for participants and the general public. Participating in educational initiatives at the fair also provides extension educators and program coordinators an opportunity for relationship building and interaction with the public. Fairs have also added a special dimension and focus to a variety of educational programs involving individuals of all ages as well as local organizations.
The Role of Extension Educators in County Fairs
The role of all extension educators working in county and regional settings is education and educational service. Extension educators are often the first point of contact with the University of Wisconsin System for people throughout the state. Extension educators teach, learn, lead and serve connecting people with the University of Wisconsin, and engaging with them in transforming lives and communities.
Extension’s educational purpose is accomplished in many ways – through seminars, workshops, information meetings, tours, demonstrations, exhibits, field studies, teleconferencing, Facebook, twitter, web sites, publications, and the mass media, both public and commercial. Extension educators work with personnel from other agencies, organizations, institutions and elected bodies to develop educational programs and provide professional expertise based on the research and knowledge foundation base of the University. Extension educators are also charged with upholding the integrity, policies and guidelines of Extension, the Wisconsin 4-H Program, and other Extension programs.
Area Extension Directors, in cooperation/consultation with Fair Boards and/or County oversight Committees, will review/consult on the roles and responsibilities of educators. Increasing and strengthening the involvement of local residents, through volunteerism, in planning and conducting county fairs will help the fairs achieve their goals as major educational, cultural, economic and social events.
There is a need for extension educators across institutes to work closely with county fairs, whether the county fair is an official county event, or sponsored by a private organization. However, it is the responsibility of Extension administration and individual educators to monitor the job descriptions and day-to-day responsibilities to ensure that services provided to county fairs are directly related and relevant to our educational mission.
Adequate clerical staff ought to be employed by county fair organizations specifically to assist with fair responsibilities, so that support for ongoing extension programs can be maintained without disruption. We expect county extension educators to focus on educational and educational service roles at county fairs. Examples of these roles may include:
- Direct educational programming, outreach, and teaching with youth and volunteers related to 4-H Projects, and with adults and other general public audiences, through workshops, demonstrations or exhibits. This may also include pre-fair events. Examples include:
- Programs that provide residents direct access to specific UW resources, such as drinking water testing/education, horticulture booth, Strong Bodies
- General Extension outreach promoting access the breadth and depth of services provided by Extension to all residents
- Targeted education or outreach related to local programming goals and plans and activities
- Program and outreach activities for which there are readily/easily accessible and useable materials (e.g. displays, flutter flags, brochures)
- Capacity building to support Fair success – such as coordinating trainings for fair boards and superintendents; particularly in the areas of decision-making, leadership, strategic planning, and organizational stewardship.
- Capacity building for volunteers – such as instructing volunteer leaders in how to conduct a demonstration, prepare an exhibit, improve displays or supervise others.
- Providing advice and counsel to fair boards, managers and various other fair committees to ensure that the educational dimensions of the fair are strengthened. Members of the county/regional extension staff may serve as a non-voting liaison to the fair governing board. Examples of advisory roles:
- Advise on the development of job descriptions for paid and volunteer leaders working directly with the fair board;
- Advising fair boards and various fair committees on state premium list recommendations;
- Advising on publicity, promotion and display arrangements;
- Advising on selection and scheduling of judges and training and evaluation of judges.
- Advising on youth development and youth protection practices, related to age of youth handling animals, for example
- Promote and positively represent the Division of Extension and UW-Madison during Fair activities
- Provide temporary general help and support for Fair operations. The nature and level of this service will need to be determined (by Extension staff) locally based on staffing capacity and alignment with educational roles described above. For example, this could be temporary or limited general support as a result of a fair staff illness.
Administration or organizational roles in connection with county fairs are not appropriate for county/regional extension educators. Examples of such inappropriate roles include:
- Serving as fair secretary or manager or superintendent
- Serving as a voting member of the fair board
- Booking, contracting, and/or setting up for carnivals or other non-educational entertainment
- Scheduling or supervising the maintenance and upkeep of the fairgrounds or its buildings
- Handling fair receipts and/or disbursements, or selling tickets at the fair
- Employing and/or supervising paid personnel for the fair, including judges and departmental superintendents.
Specific questions regarding roles or responsibilities (and what may or may not be appropriate at each given fair) should be discussed between the Extension Educator(s), the Area Extension Director and the Fair Board.
*Due to grant funding parameters, FoodWIse has limitations on educational program participation at the county fair. Please consult program specific guidance.