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Youth Advisory Board begins its work well before Appalachian Fair opens

Tanja Moody • Apr 22, 2013 at 11:25 AM

The Appalachian Fair in August may seem a distant future event for those who simply plan to attend. But for 25 students on the Appalachian Fair Youth Advisory Board, preliminary planning is already under way.

Each year in November, youth who are interested in board positions submit a two-page application.

"It’s like a job application," said Camille Jessee, an advisor for the board and a 4-H extension agent for Carter County.

"It teaches them how to fill out applications," said Lisa Rupert, another board advisor. "So they’re learning something in the process."

In January, a committee from the Appalachian Fair Board of Directors selects youth board participants from the applicants. Students choose officers at their first meeting shortly after the board is formed.

"Kids don’t get paid to be on the board," Rupert said. "But it’s an honor for them to be selected. And they get privileges. They receive a T-shirt and a name badge. They walk around during the fair and see people from the community who ask them what they’re doing."

What they do is varied. The youth volunteers serve in whatever capacity is needed during the fair to help it run smoothly. They may do anything from handing out tickets and setting up displays for exhibits to distributing promotions at the entry gate and assisting with Fairest of the Fair and other competitions.

Rupert knows firsthand about being on the board from a student’s perspective since she was the first board president when the Appalachian Fair Youth Advisory Board began in the early 80s. She remained involved during her high school years, and has served as an adult advisor for the last two decades. And her two daughters are now involved as youth volunteers on the board.

"We’re looking for kids who want to do community service," Rupert said.

Youth interested in serving on the board must be at least in the eighth grade when the fair is held, Jessee said. Participants can be up to 21 years old, but most are of high school age.

One of the biggest events the students oversee is the Youth Board Scavenger Hunt, held on the first Monday night of the fair for children 12 and under, according Jessee.

"Children pick up a scavenger hunt card and go to different sections of the fair where youth board members are set up with games," Jessee said. "If children get enough marks on their cards, they can get free ride tickets. The whole purpose is to introduce the younger children to different parts of the fair. Most of them usually want to go straight to the rides. The scavenger hunt gets them to visit places like the museum, the Farm and Home building and the FFA building."

Both Rupert and Jessee agree that there is no "typical" youth board volunteer.

"They come from different backgrounds and have different interests," Jessee said. "They live in any of the surrounding counties, like Carter, Unicoi, Johnson, Washington, Hawkins and Sullivan, sometimes even Greene. We have cheerleaders and ball players. Some have 4-H experience, but others don’t.

"The only thing they all have in common is that they have an interest in the fair," Jessee said.

For more information about the Appalachian Fair Youth Advisory Board, call the fair office at 423-477-3211.

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