LaSalle Co. 4-H leader honored at statewide convention

Mary Jane Spinazola, left, is congratulated by Ken Tyrrell, president of the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs. (Photo contributed)

SPRINGFIELD - LaSalle County 4-H and Junior Fair Board Mary Jane Spinazola of Earlville received a Friend of Illinois County Fair Award during the 110th annual convention of the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs. At the convention, which was held at the Crowne Plaza in Springfield the week of Jan. 17-20, exemplary volunteers were acknowledged for their service to agriculture, county fairs, and youth.

A 25-year member of the LaSalle County 4-H and Junior Fair Board, Spinazola recently announced that she will step down from her role as a member of the LaSalle County 4-H and Junior Fair board after selflessly serving and for being instrumental in leading efforts that have made the fair what it is today.

The LaSalle County 4-H and Junior Fair is comparably small relative to many counties that have extensive open events. As such, the local fair is solely dependent on a small group of volunteers and a strong working relationship with the LaSalle County Extension office and the 4-H leaders of the county. For decades, Spinazola not only served as one of nine fair board members but also as a central 4-H leader, thus being perfectly positioned to be an influential voice for all major constituents of the fair. Most importantly, her primary focus has always remained the same –working for agricultural youth of LaSalle County.

In addition to being the decision-making body for the fair, the LaSalle County Fair Board is also the primary labor force during the fair and throughout the year. Spinazola has for years been the lead board member in the organization and implementation of all non-livestock 4-H project activities at the fair. She completely redesigned the exhibit spaces for greater efficiency and visibility and implemented an extensive beautification program both in and outside the buildings. She also championed a yearly celebration of fair history and most recently a recognition program of the role of veterans in the LaSalle County Fair.

Spinazola spearheads the annual advertising campaign for the fair, personally delivers flyers and brochures to dozens of businesses and offices throughout the county, assists with press releases and does numerous radio spots. Additionally, she oversees the admissions process for the fair, assists with daily operations of the fair office, and manages the Parade of Excellence, which annually recognizes the achievements of the young people who participate in the fair.

She has also been the leader of one of LaSalle County’s largest 4-H clubs for 23 years and has been a positive influence on the youth who participate at the fair. Dozens of her former 4-H members now volunteer in various fair roles continuing her tradition of giving back to the programs that have been a positive influence in their lives. Her decades of passionate dedication to the LaSalle County Fair have made a real impact on the fair and the lives of countless young people in the county. She is a fine example of the kind of people that make the county fairs of Illinois such an important part of our communities.