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Utley, Elkhart County Fair Leader, Honored by Ind. Fairs Hall of Fame


Published: Friday, February 19, 2021

Longtime Elkhart County 4-H Fair board member Richard Utley has been inducted into the 2020 Indiana Assn. of Fairs and Festivals (INAF) Hall of Fame.

The purpose of the INAF is to bring together the various fairs, festivals and events in the state of Indiana and provide networking, educational and collaborative opportunities.

Every year one representative from each fair/festival is nominated to be submitted into the INAF Hall of Fame, where they are honored for their work within the industry. Among those nominated, one individual is chosen for each district to be inducted into the hall of fame.

"I am truly humbled and honored to have been chosen to be in the INAF Hall of Fame this year," Utley said in a news release. "I was very surprised when I heard my name and realized that I was the District 2 inductee."

Utley has been a member of the Elkhart County 4-H Fair board of directors for over 22 years. He has served as director at large on the board's executive committee, on the long-range planning committee for several terms, as vice president in 2013, president-elect in 2014, president in 2015 and past president in 2016.

He has also served as the camping director for over 20 years, assisted with all UPS deliveries during the annual fair from 1994-2013, served on the Elkhart County 4-H Fair Foundation board for several years and has been the Veterans Day/Hometown Hero Day coordinator for the past four years.

From 2015-19 he assisted the Green Earth Day Committee with their Bottle Caps to Benches program, helping the fair recycle over 30,000 pounds of plastic to be used in the making of over 90 recycled plastic benches.

"It has been an honor to serve with Rich on the Fair Board," said Trent Hostetler, 2021 fair board president. "Rich is always willing to jump in and help anybody that needs it at the Fair."

Outside of the fair, Utley has volunteered in the Elkhart County 4-H program for many years, has served as the Middlebury Summer Festival Committee since 2007, as chairperson of the Middlebury Summer Festival since 2017 and has served on the Middlebury Fall Festival Committee since 2017.

He has been a member of the Crystal Valley Exchange Club since 2012, serving as president of the club in 2017 and currently serving as its vice president.

He is also a member of the Child and Parent Services (CAPS) umbrella advisory board, working to support families to ensure that every child lives a life free from abuse and neglect.

In 2018 Utley received the Book of Golden Deeds Award for his contribution and time spent working to make the community a better place and was awarded the Friend of the 4-H award in 2015.

He retired in 2012 after working for Homecrest Cabinets for 41 years. Utley is also a proud veteran of the Army, having served from 1965-71 in the Army Security Agency as a staff sergeant.

"My dad is a wonderful man who has a servant's heart. He has always put others before himself ever since I was little," said Jennifer Prough, Utley's daughter. "He volunteers to give back to all of his communities, big and small, and I am so proud to call him my dad."

Other Awards

The Elkhart County 4-H Fair received several awards in the areas of marketing, sponsorship and facility usage from the International Assn. of Fairs and Expos (IAFE) for its work during the 2020 year.

The IAFE annually selects winners in the areas of marketing, sponsorship, competitive exhibits, agricultural awards and non-fair facility usage though panels of judges from within the fair and expo industry. The contests are open to IAFE members from across the world, including the United Kingdom and Australia, and entries are judged based upon predetermined criteria set forth by IAFE committees.

"Each entry into the annual IAFE contest is evaluated based on criteria set forth by industry committee members," Brittney Harper, IAFE member services coordinator, said in a news release. "Being recognized as a contest winner is an accomplishment many fairs strive to achieve throughout the year.

"With the unusual year came many challenges to our industry, but the contest program was still able to showcase the best programs across the world."

This year, the Elkhart County 4-H Fair placed in the following categories:

• Hall of Honor Communications—Category 4, Budget Friendly Tactics, third place; Category 5: Communications to Fairgoers About Status of the 2020 Fair, third.

• Innovation in Sponsorship—New Sponsor Outreach, second.

• Non-Fair Facility Usage

—Category 1A, Unique Event Created to Utilize the Facility During the Pandemic, second; Category 1B: Rental Event Post Pandemic, second; Category 2B: Creative Funding for Facility Projects, first.

"I couldn't be prouder of a group than I am of the fair board and staff of the Elkhart County 4-H Fair" said Trent Hostetler, 2021 Elkhart County 4-H fair board president.

"Yes, the awards are great, but the effort to stay engaged with, and find ways to reach out to the community shows the true heart of this group of people."

The awards were presented during the IAFE event, Virtual Vision, held in lieu of the IAFE Annual Convention, on Dec. 1.

Each Fair is sorted into a division based on annual fair attendance and competes within each contest category against other fairs of the same size. With an average annual attendance of 200,000 guests, the Elkhart County 4-H Fair falls into Division 2: Fairs with an attendance of 100,001-250,000.

"This is done to keep it somewhat fair and to avoid much smaller fairs with typically less staff and resources from competing against larger fairs who have more resources at their disposal", said Jeremy D'Angelo, Elkhart County 4-H fair marketing and sponsorship coordinator.

The Hall of Honor Communications contest received 156 entries and was sponsored by K&K Insurance. The Innovation in Sponsorship Contest received 61 entries and was sponsored by Etix. The Non-Fair Facility Usage contest received 57 entries and was sponsored by Ungerboeck Software International.

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