The South Carolina State Fair announced that its general manager, Nancy Smith, has been awarded the John W. Parris Agricultural Leadership Award by the South Carolina Association of Agricultural Educators for her commitment to promoting agriculture across South Carolina.
Presented at the annual state conference of the agricultural educators at Clemson University earlier this month, this prestigious leadership award is given annually to an individual who has shown a continued support for agriculture in a state-level position while advancing agriculture through their leadership qualities.
“I am deeply humbled and profoundly honored to receive this esteemed award from the South Carolina Association of Agricultural Educators,” says Nancy Smith, who has demonstrated exemplary leadership since assuming the role of general manager in 2018. “From its inception, the South Carolina State Fair has been committed to preserving and promoting our agricultural roots, providing a vibrant platform for farmers, educators and communities to come together.”
A Columbia native, Smith, began her career at the S.C. State Fair in the home and craft department in 1983. She assumed a full-time position with the fair in 2000 as director of entertainment and exhibits and eventually directed the marketing, advertising and sponsorship departments. Smith was promoted to assistant director of the fair in 2008 before assuming her current role five years ago.
A graduate of the Institute of Fair Management, Smith earned her Certified Fair Executive designation from the International Association of Fairs and Expositions in 2006.
Over the years, Smith has held various offices within the South Carolina Association of Fairs and currently serves as president. In 2021 she was honored with the Fair Person of the Year Award, the highest honor bestowed by the organization. Smith also has been active in the International Association of Fairs and Expositions where she served as a member of the Speaker’s Bureau for many years. She served as a Zone leader prior to being named second vice chair in 2018 and chair of the organization in 2020. The International Association of Fairs and Expositions represents more than 1,100 fairs around the world and more than 900 members from allied fields.
The S.C. State Fair, the state’s largest event, is a self-supported, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and preserving the state’s agricultural roots while supporting statewide education. Under Smith’s leadership, the State Fair has increased its annual scholarship program from $300,000 to $500,00, with individual scholarship amounts raised to $10,000.
Smith, an active supporter of the South Carolina Future Farmers of America Association, has been honored with the State FFA Degree and the American FFA Degree. The S.C. State Fair annually hosts the FFA Day on the fairgrounds, and all FFA members and agricultural educators in the state are admitted free. The S.C. State Fair also hosts the annual State FFA Tractor Operation and Safety competition.
“FFA members showing livestock at the fair has increased substantially under Nancy’s leadership,” says Tom Dobbins, superintendent of the Livestock department at the S.C. State Fair.
The John W. Parris Agricultural Leadership Award was established more than 20 years ago by the South Carolina Association of Agricultural Educators. Parris, of Columbia, S.C., is a graduate of Clemson University and is a nationally recognized agricultural leader and conservation visionary with more than 65 years of professional service. The John W. Parris Agricultural Leadership Award recipient must be nominated by an agricultural educator in the state.
About the South Carolina State Fair
The South Carolina State Fair, a self-supporting 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, was organized in 1869 and is dedicated to preserving and promoting South Carolina’s agricultural roots while supporting statewide education. In addition to the 12-day South Carolina State Fair, the charitable organization manages annual football parking, is a popular event venue and hosts Carolina Lights — Columbia’s downtown drive-through light show. The South Carolina State Fair has awarded almost $5 million in scholarships since 1997. More information can be found at SCStateFair.org.