New extension agent no stranger to county fair scene
Steve McNorton has seen his share of county fairs — 90 percent of the ones held in Kansas, he estimates.
So he knows what he’s talking about when he says that the fair at which he’s working this week, in Leavenworth County, is one of the best.
“It has traditionally been known as one of the strongest and best county fairs in the state of Kansas,” McNorton said.
McNorton this week is working at his first Leavenworth County Fair as the Leavenworth County Kansas State University Extension’s agricultural agent.
He was born and raised on a farm north of Topeka. He studied animal sciences at Kansas State University. And one of his proudest moments, he said, was when after 13 years in 4-H during his youth he finally won a grand championship in the swine event at the Shawnee County Fair.
So it’s only natural, he said, that he’s pursued a career in agriculture.
“It’s just what I was born to do,” McNorton said.
His first job out of college was at a crop and livestock farming operation, and after that he worked for Farm Bureau Financial Services, before he took his new job about three months ago. As the county’s new agricultural agent, he serves as a resource for farmers and other residents, many of whom have wondered how to keep their crops or gardens growing during this summer’s drought.
“You never know day-to-day what somebody’s problem or issue or concern might be,” McNorton said.
But now, the week circled on the extension’s calendar all year long is here, and McNorton is focused on helping things go smoothly.
“We’re just trying to put on a great event for the youth,” he said.
He remembers how great it felt to put a cap on his 4-H career with a grand championship at his hometown fair, and he knows what the week can mean for the youths involved, he said.
McNorton has attended scores of county fairs as a livestock judge, and he said he always looks forward to the livestock at the end of the fair, when a buzz fills the air.
“The auctions always build a lot of excitement, just because of the attendance and the sale ring atmosphere,” McNorton said.
The livestock auction at this year’s fair will be 6:30 p.m. Friday in the show arena at the fairgrounds.
At this year’s fair, McNorton is also looking forward to meeting face-to-face for the first time with many people in the community, he said.
And when he meets them, he’s confident they’ll be having a great experience.
“All of my pre-fair work building up through this week just confirms in my mind that this is a very special event,” McNorton said.