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'Friend of Fair' awards given

Former State Rep. Don Moffitt, center, receives the Friend of Illinois County Fair award in Springfield / CIFN photo, Rebecca Casson

SPRINGFIELD – Five “Friend of Illinois County Fair” awards were presented during last weekend’s 107th annual convention of the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs in Springfield.

Awards were presented to Phil Hartke, Dean Page, Jane Cross, former State Rep. Don Moffitt, and former State Sen. John Sullivan.

Hartke has served for over 30 years at the Effingham County Fair. The IAAF says he has never met a stranger and has a love for agriculture. Hartke was inducted into the 4-H Hall of Fame over the summer.

Page has been in charge of his fairgrounds electrical operations since 1999 and is a member of the Boone County Sheriff’s Patrol, overseeing security at his local fair.

Cross is active with the state pageant director’s association and has embroidered many fair winner blankets. She was thanked for her hard work and endless volunteer efforts. According to the IAAF, Cross is ready to help other pageants when needed.

Moffitt worked to pass the Illinois Livestock Facilities Act while he was a state representative. He is currently assistant director of agriculture for Illinois. Moffitt served as a republican spokesman and has served on the agriculture and education committees will serving at the statehouse.

Sullivan was elected to the state senate in 2002 and served on the agriculture, transportation and higher education committees. Sullivan farms near Rushville and runs an auctioneering business with his family.

State agriculture director Raymond Poe addressed the Saturday breakfast meeting of the IAAF. Poe said he is trying to make sure things go right for agriculture as his office deals with Soil and Water Conservation Districts and horse racing. He believes horse racing needs to remain at the forefront for fairs since we are losing the industry to other states.

“County fairs bring millions of dollars into the economy of Illinois and you guys do a great job,” Poe said.

Poe suggested fair representatives get to know their legislators on a first name basis so they can offer assistance.

Jeremy Parsons, CEO and manager of the Clay County Fair in Iowa, was a keynote speaker at the IAAF Convention. The fair attracts 320,000 people over a nine-day run each September in a town of around 12,000 residents and a county of 17,000. The fair has over 500 commercial exhibitors.

“We are the largest farm machinery show left at any fair in the United States,” Parsons explained. “Attend a conference because it really could change your professional life.”

Parsons grew up in the fair industry, the son of a county fair board president. He says everyone has a job at their respective fairs, a job he refers to as “caretakers.” In Parsons’ opinion, a caretaker must have a passion for excellence, lead with integrity and constantly communicate.

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