It's July 4th and time to celebrate the birth of our great nation. Personally, I'll be gathering with friends and family to fill bellies with hot dogs and burgers fresh off the grill, and to light up the sky with some fireworks and sparklers. We will wear our red, white and blue to honor those who fought throughout the last 240 years for the principles that make our country great. Across our nation, we'll be joined by our fellow Americans, many of whom will spend the weekend at a local fair to commemorate Independence Day. Agricultural fairs do an amazing job of bringing people together for this weekend, providing entertainment, food, rides and night skies filled with bangs, booms, oohs and aahs.
The Evolving Fairs & Expos Industry
For more decades than I can remember, Haas & Wilkerson Insurance has been an active member of the International Association of Fairs & Expositions (IAFE) as part of our insurance program for fairs and festivals. Our long-standing relationship started with my grandfather, continued with my father, and now is shepherded by a third generation—my sister, Kimberly Wilkerson, and me. IAFE has been around for more than 125 years to help our nation's fairs and expositions to be the best they can be, and we're proud to play a role.
A lot has changed in the last 100+ years for agriculture-based fairs. For many Americans, fairs have become their only way to connect with their food source. It's the one time of year they can see, feel and smell cattle, pigs and other farm animals, as well as the products made on the farm. But what used to easily draw a crowd to the local fair in years gone by isn't engaging younger generations. So fairs, which are mostly run by volunteers and part-time staff, are evolving with the times to keep this important aspect of Americana alive and well.
Educating to Stay Ahead
Last I checked, you can't go to college to learn how to run a fair. Each fair is as unique as it is a complex, requiring experience and expertise to plan and execute. That's where IAFE comes in. Through its education programs, fair organizers stay on top of trends, advance their safety and risk management, discover new entertainment options, and improve their fair experience.
When Jim Tucker, the recently retired CEO and President of IAFE, was asked how his 35 years of service could be honored, he suggested the IAFE Education Foundation (established in 2001) could be a vehicle to enhance the educational offerings at the annual International Convention, other meetings the Association organizes, and online. He wanted fair organizers to have access to the best education possible, and he wanted to make that education available to those who need some help to attend IAFE's annual and zone meetings.
Supporting the Cause
In December 2015, the Jim Tucker Fund was developed with a goal of raising $100,000. Because we share Jim's focus on education, Haas & Wilkerson Insurance proudly issued a challenge grant that matches the next $35,000 raised dollar for dollar to support the IAFE Education Foundation.
“The Jim Tucker Fund will make it possible for IAFE to deliver even better education to our members. Whether a top-notch speaker at our annual convention, more education sessions at our zone meetings, or additional web-based training programs, this new fund will help IAFE take our education programs to the next level. We believe in the continued success of our members and know how important our education program is to the sustainability of our industry.”
– Marla J. Calico, CFE, President & CEO, IAFE
This is an exciting time in the fair industry. I'm confident that organizations like IAFE will help fairs and exposition continue as the backbone of our great nation. Staying connected to the agrarian roots of our country is something that fairs make possible. Haas & Wilkerson Insurance is proud to support this industry with our specialized insurance products that help fairs stay safe and manage risk.
If you're part of the fair industry or just love attending a local fair each year, please join Haas & Wilkerson in raising the $100,000 needed to advance the educational opportunities for fair organizers. Thank you and have a happy 4th!
Ryan Wilkerson is known to down a few too many funnel cakes and corn dogs when he visits fairs all over the country. He's the president and CEO of Haas & Wilkerson Insurance, a third-generation, family-owned, independent insurance agency.