Home News Ag Economics Friends of the Fair Sponsoring $25,000 in College Ag Scholarships

Friends of the Fair Sponsoring $25,000 in College Ag Scholarships

It pays to major in agriculture. The Friends of the Dixon May Fair is sponsoring nine college scholarships, valued at a total of $25,000, in its annual Donnie and Tootie Huffman Scholarship Program that is open to Solano County high school graduates majoring in an agricultural field.

In the past, the ag scholarship applicants had to “be attending a college or university within California.”  As of 2024, the rules have expanded to  “a college or university within the United States,” announced Carrie Hamel of Dixon, scholarship chair.

The deadline to apply is March 1, 2024.

In the four-year university or college category, scholarships available are:

–The $5000 Donnie Huffman Presidential Memorial Scholarship

–The $4000 JoAn Giannoni Scholarship

–The $3500 Ester Armstrong Scholarship

–The $3000 Joe Gates Memorial Scholarship

–Three scholarships at $3000 each

In the two-year, or community college category scholarships available are:

–The 1500 Jack Hopkins Memorial Scholarship

–$1000 scholarship

Since 2000, the Friends have awarded a total of $248,750 in college scholarships, Hamel said.

The scholarship program was named the Donnie and Tootie Huffman Scholarship Program in honor of the founding president Donnie Huffman (Feb. 29, 1940-2023), and his wife, Tootie, the founding treasurer. Donnie died June 17, 2023 after a long battle with cancer.  His wife Tootie, continues as a Friends of the Fair volunteer.

Donnie also founded the Friends of the Solano County Fair (1993 amd served as its president until 2006. He and Tootie began a college scholarship program for both fairs. Since 2000, the Friends of the Dixon May Fair has awarded a total of $248,750 to Solano County residents majoring in agriculture. In tribute to their work, the program was renamed the Donnie and Tootie Huffman Scholarship Program in 2022. A $5,000 scholarship to the top applicant bears his name.

In 2023, four applicants shared a total of $15,500.

Sam Esperson, a 2022 graduate of Rio Vista High School and a student at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo, won the newly created Donnie Huffman Scholarship of $5000.

Bridget de Flores, a 2023 graduate of Rio Vista High School, a student at Cal Poly, received the $4000 JoAn Gianoni Scholarship. Giannoni, a longtime resident of Dixon, is a founding member of the Friends, and served as the inaugural secretary and scholarship chair.

Natalie Victorine, a 2021 graduate of Dixon High School and a student at Cal Poly, won the $3500 Ester Armstrong Scholarship. The award memorializes fair industry veteran Ester Armstrong of Rockville, a former director of the California Division of Fairs and Expositions who served as interim CEO of the Dixon May Fair from 2006 to 2009. She died in May 2009 of cancer.

Molly Feins, a 2021 graduate of Vacaville High School and a student at Cal Poly, won the newly established $3000 Joe Gates Memorial Scholarship. Gates, a Rio Vista resident and longtime auctioneer of the Dixon May Fair’s Junior Livestock Auction, died of COVID, died in February 2021.

Capsule information:

Sam Esperson
Esperson, then a 2023 high school graduate, wrote that he planned to obtain a bachelor of science degree in agricultural systems management from Cal Poly. “With a college education in agricultural systems management, I can use a variety of levels of agricultural engineering, business credit and financing, agricultural personnel management and overall agricultural systems management theory to expand my opportunities in the agricultural industry,” he wrote in his essay. He is a member of numerous clubs, including the Agricultural Engineers Society.

Bridget de Flores

De Flores, ranking in the top 10 of her Rio Vista High School graduating class, wrote that she hoped to double major in ag business or animal science at Cal Poly. She captained the varsity cheer team and was active in 4-H. “When I was little, I used to say that when I got bigger I wanted to own a ranch, so that I could own all the animals I wanted to. Now that I have grown, I have seen how I can make that into reality.” She aims for a career as a farm/ranch manager or a farmer/rancher.

Natalie Victorine

Victorine, majoring in agricultural communication at Cal Poly, seeks a career as a social media manager/digital media production for an agricultural business. “My inspiration to pursue a degree in agricultural communication was fueled by my involvement in youth agricultural leadership organizations such as 4-H and FFA, combined with my strong roots in agriculture growing up in a cattle ranching family,” she wrote.

Molly Feins

Molly Feins, who seeks a career “in the animal and agricultural field,” is majoring in animal science at Cal Poly. Her initial plans included pursuing a career in animal genetics, but she indicated she may change that to agricultural leadership. “This has been a year for reflection and growth mindset,” she wrote in her essay.

The Friends, an all-volunteer, service-oriented organization, is the fundraising arm of the Dixon May Fair. Headed by president Gilbert “Gil” Molina of Vacaville, the organization raises funds through the sale of beverages at the four-day fair, and donate the proceeds for building and grounds improvements, college scholarships, and exhibitor awards.

Applicants are scored on personal, civic and academic experience; academic standing; personal commitment and established goals; leadership potential; civic accomplishments; chosen field in the areas of agriculture, said Hamel.  Most applicants have experience in 4-H, FFA or Grange, criteria desired but not mandated.

Continuing scholarship winners may apply up to four times, Hamel said. All scholarship checks can be used only for tuition, fees, books, materials and supplies, housing, and meals purchased on campus.

Agricultural-related fields include majors and options such as, but not limited to, agricultural and resource economics, agricultural business, agronomy and range science, agricultural science, agricultural systems management, animal science, avian sciences, bio-resource and agricultural engineering, plant protection science, dairy science, entomology, earth sciences, environmental horticultural science, environmental design, environmental management and protection, landscape architecture, food science, environmental toxicology, forestry and natural resources, fruit science, soils and biogeochemistry, agricultural education and communication, home economics, environmental resource sciences, agribusiness, pomology, animal science, vegetable crops, nematology, earth and soil sciences, plant pathology, food science and nutrition, wildlife and fisheries biology, horticulture and crop science, pest management, natural resources management, child, family and consumer science, viticulture and enology, atmospheric science, and hydrologic science.

The scholarship committee, chaired by Hamel, also includes Tootie Huffman, Kathy Keatley Garvey and Linda Molina, all of Vacaville, and Marty Scrivens and Alisa Ramirez, both of Dixon.

More information on the scholarship application rules is available on the Friends of the Fair Facebook site at https://www.facebook.com/FriendsoftheDixonMayFair. Applications must be on the Friends of the Fair form and include a personal essay of not more than two pages; accumulative and current transcripts; and two letters of support, with one from a professional educator. The packet (one set of originals and a copy of each document) is to be mailed to the Friends of the Fair, P.O. Box 242, Dixon, Calif.

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