GOSHEN — It’s a time of transition for the Elkhart County 4-H Fair, so the fair board decided to hire someone in a transitional position.
Their choice of Stan Knafel, though, ensured that the new fairgrounds coordinator is as well-versed as anyone in the local 4-H program and the fair which showcases it every year to hundreds of thousands of visitors.
While the fair is a diverse event, it’s put on “for the 4-H reason, young people. It’s all about the youth,” said Knafel, who spent more than two decades as 4-H coordinator in the Purdue Cooperative Extension Office in Elkhart County. “Purdue provides the programming, the fair board provides the facility.” Since he retired a decade ago, Knafel has served on the fair board, about half of that time serving on the executive committee. “I’m one of the few people who’ve worked on both sides of the fence,” Knafel said.
The fair board purchased land to more than double the size of the fairgrounds about 18 months ago, and last year announced the purchase was paid off. Now they’re working on long-range plans on how to use that land and how to raise money to put those plans in place.
“We’re still going to need community money and support,” said Knafel. “This is a transition period for the fair, so it’s a transitional type of position.” He’ll work in the community to remind community members that the fairgrounds are available for use for about 50 weeks out of the year. He’ll also handle booking of the facilities for wedding receptions, RV rallies, 4-H club meetings and other uses, and he’ll oversee the staff.
The former executive director, Robin Haag, is now the office supervisor, overseeing the fair office and finances.
His job might change as he settles in, and when the board decides what they want at the next stage of the transition, the role could change again, Knafel said.
Tim Graber, this year’s fair board president, said, “We’re pretty excited about it. He brings a fresh perspective,” but a perspective familiar with the fair and 4-H.
“It’s going to improve our efficiencies out there,” and will take some of the pressure off Haag, who Graber said has “just got a full plate.”
Graber agreed that the job will change in the future, but “Stan was a perfect fit there for us” for now.
Some 75 to 80 people applied for the job, but “Stan kind of rose to the top there,” Graber said. “He brings just an abundance of fair knowledge.”
Knafel worked as 4-H coordinator in Elkhart County from 1982 to 2003, and since then he’s been a substitute teacher at Fairfield and NorthWood.
Before coming to Elkhart County, Knafel was an extension agent in LaGrange County, and before that he was a vocational agriculture teacher a Central Noble Schools in Albion.
He’s held many professional leadership positions and is involved in a variety of organizations.
“He’s a tremendous educator,” said Graber. “I can’t say enough good about him.”