TRI-CITY AREA — When Audrey Schapman wanted to join the Eastern Michigan State Fair Board as a junior member, she didn't expect her duties would take her beyond the fairgrounds often. So when the Michigan Association of Fairs and Exhibitions asked her to testify in front of the Michigan House Appropriations Committee in Lansing last month, she was "very shocked."
She, along with fellow junior fair board member Amber Spudowski, Fair Manager Ian Kempf and other fair representatives appeared before the committee on April 16 to talk about how county fairs bolster local economies and develop future ag leaders through FFA and 4-H.
Audrey, who's a senior at Almont High School and Lapeer County FFA member, was no stranger to Lansing or the Capitol, but it was her first time there as more than just a tourist.
"I shared my experiences from being on the fair board and some of the service projects we'll be doing," Audrey said.
Soon, she'll be helping with interior projects like hanging drywall and painting in the fair's newly constructed office.
Almont's Audrey Schapman (left) and fellow junior fair board member Amber Spudowski traveled to Lansing last month where they testified before a House committee. photo by Tammy Hyatt.
She also shared her appreciation for the chance to build leadership skills and voiced her support for ongoing grant funding that has benefitted the fairgrounds. Last year, state dollars helped construct a new FFA barn on the grounds, just in time for the 2018 fair.
"It was my first year as vice president of our FFA chapter and it was our job to fill that new big barn with exhibits," Audrey said.
"It was both challenging and wonderful."
Audrey continues to serve as the FFA chapter's vice president.
Preparing for her testimony was daunting at first but, "once I did some research and knew who I'd be speaking too, it was easier."
Among them was Representative Sheryl Kennedy of Genesee County who Audrey had heard speak at the Michigan FFA Convention only one month earlier. The committee was taking testimony directly related to the County Fair Capital Improvement Grant Program. Last year, 22 county fairs across the state were awarded more than $600,000 for capital improvement projects that required a dollar-for-dollar cash match.
Audrey has shown beef animals at the fair for the last 13 years and she decided to seek a seat on the board to "have more of a say" in the direction of the organization.
"I wanted to be more involved than just that one week of the fair every summer," she said.
She's six months in to her first term.
In addition to attending meetings and helping with hands-on projects on the fair's grounds, Audrey will be busy with fair-week tasks too come July 23-27.
She'll be available to answer questions from fellow exhibitors, attend meetings for each of the animal areas and assist buyers who'll attend the livestock auction by greeting them at the entrance, directing them to the barns and answering any questions they may have.
Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she and her family reside in the Capac area where she enjoys gardening and reading.