When walking around the Iowa State Fair, there is a sea of people taking in the sights, sounds and delicious food. Among the thousands of visitors are yellow clad FFA members looking to help make the experience even better.
Every year, members from local FFA chapters volunteer as ushers throughout the entire 11 days of the fair to help in areas including livestock shows, entrance duties and concert ushers. Morgan DeHaai, a graduated senior from PCM High School, is in her second year volunteering after having a great experience last year.
“I didn’t know anything new about ushering until our advisor told us it goes on during the state fair and if we wanted to do it we could sign up. I thought it sounded fun but nobody else wanted to do it. So I signed up anyway and thought I would meet people there,” DeHaai said. “A couple of other kids also signed up and we all got in. It was really fun so we keep coming back and trying to get other people to come with us. This year, we got a total of seven to come.”
So far this year, during the day DeHaai has served as a golf cart driver bringing programs to the entrance gates to be distributed. In the evening, she moves to the grandstand to usher at the concerts.
“We also help out at different events throughout the fair including sheep sheering contests, the Parade of Champions, the Sale of Champions, a Farm to Fair Dinner and Little Hands on the Farm,” DeHaai said.
As anyone who has been to a concert might guess, some interesting events often take place before, during and after the show. The same is true at the Iowa State Fair and DeHaai already has a list of stories to tell.
“We’ve had some insane stuff happen at the concerts. On the first night, we had a couple come up to us and the guy was like ‘I’m going to propose to my girlfriend.’ So there is a little stage in the middle of the grandstand where the band came up and sang for part of the concert so we were like ‘Hey, go up there,’” DeHaai said. “For Slipknot, we had to evacuate before the band even started because it was a very insane crowd. As soon as we left, the people up top said they just stormed the pit.”
Getting to see every concert at the fair is definitely a favorite for DeHaai, but she also said by the end of the night her feet are more than a little tired. As the Iowa Dorset Sheep Queen and Jasper County Sheep Queen, helping out at the sheep sheering contest also topped her list, so far.
“The contest is to see who can have the best sheering the fastest. They get four lambs, I believe, and we have different assignments. Somebody is painting numbers of the lamb, somebody is flipping the lamb, somebody is getting the lamb out,” DeHaai said.
Along with serving as an FFA usher, DeHaai also has her own animals to show at the fair. Thursday, she participated in the poultry show through FFA, and Tuesday and Wednesday she will take her turn in the ring with her sheep in the 4-H and open class shows.
“My sheep are here now and my poultry already left,” DeHaai said. “My sheep behave a little better. I thought poultry was fun. I did it through 4-H last year and FFA was pretty fun to do this year. I also got to help set it up and help all of the people on the Poultry Board because my FFA advisor is on the board so I got to help out a lot more.”
A goal of the FFA usher program is to help develop leadership skills including responsibility, time management and communication. DeHaai found it is a great way to step out of your comfort zone and meet new people.
“I’ve learned to make new friends a lot easier,” DeHaai said. “When you get here and you have other people from your chapter, you really tend to stick to their hip but they are really about splitting you up and making new friends, so I have met people from all over the state.”
She even met a fellow future Cyclone while at the fair, her group leader who will also be attended Iowa State University next year.
“It is really fun,” DeHaai said.
Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or firstname.lastname@example.org