By Kathy Keatley Garvey, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology

The Friends of the Dixon May Fair has awarded $11,000 in college scholarships to five Solano County youths majoring in an agricultural-related field. They represent the cities of Vacaville, Fairfield, Dixon and Rio Vista.

Carrie Hamel of Dixon, scholarship chair of the Friends of the Fair, announced the recipients at a recent ceremony at the newly named Friends Plaza by the Leber Stage, Dixon fairgrounds. Since 2000, the Friends have awarded a total of $233,250 to Solano County students majoring in an ag-related field in a California university or community college, she said.

Sam Esperson, a member of the Rio Vista High School Class of 2022, received the top award, the $3000 Ester Armstrong scholarship. He plans to major in agricultural systems management or agricultural engineering at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo.

The $2500 JoAnn Giannoni Scholarship went to Molly Feins, a 2021 graduate of Vacaville High School and a student at Cal Poly. She plans to become an animal geneticist.

Clairese Wright, a member of the Rodriguez High School Class of 2022, Fairfield, received a $2000 scholarship. She will major in environmental engineering at UCLA.

Natalie Victorine, a 2021 graduate of Dixon High School and a Cal Poly student majoring in agricultural business, received a $2000 scholarship.

In the two-year community college category, Jared Tanaka, a 2020 Dixon High School graduate and a student at Modesto Junior College, won the $1500 Jack Hopkins Scholarship. Tanaka plans to become an artificial insemination technician.

The Friends, an all-volunteer organization and the fundraising arm of the Dixon May Fair, raise funds by selling beverages. They use the proceeds for building and grounds improvements, exhibitor awards (including belt buckles and trophies), and college scholarships.

Sam Esperson
Esperson, the Rio Vista student body president, maintains a 4.2 grade point average. The son of a farmer and active in 4-H and FFA, he attributes the Rio Vista FFA with sparking his passion for pursuing a career in agriculture. “In FFA I learned about the global and technological importance of agriculture and its contribution to our well-being,” he wrote in his essay. “Although FFA was primarily the reason I wanted to become involved in agriculture, I also saw the impact of agriculture throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. I realized that most things I have in my life are related to agriculture in one way or another. I want to help provide.” He cited the FFA moto, “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live and Living to Serve.”
He attended the 2019 FFA National Convention and the FFA Student Leadership Conference. In athletics, he was named to the Academic All-League Team in three sports: baseball, cross-country and basketball.

Molly Feins
Feins, who is finishing her first year at Cal Poly, is active in the Young Cattlemen’s Association and the Los Lecheros Dairy Club. “I also was able to join a dairy calving enterprise where I would go to the Cal Poly dairy once a week to do chores and process calves born that day,” she wrote in her essay. She plans to pursue a career in animal genetics and reproductive technology, “I want to manipulate the genes of production animals to create the highest quality products,” she wrote. “My involvement in FFA and showing lambs has convinced me to pursue my desired career focusing on sheep production. The sheep industry is underdeveloped with genetic breeding.”

Clairese Wright
Wright, active in the Solano County 4-H program for 13 years, has served as a Solano County 4-H All-Star Ambassador and president of the Suisun Valley 4-H Club, the largest club in the county with 75 members. In her essay, she cited the 4-H motto, “to make the best better.” Much of her 4-activities have focused on the impact of detrimental effects of pollution. For her emerald Star 4-H Award, she completed a project titled “Don’t Make Pollution Be the Solution.” Her project’s main point “was to explain the global problem and offer simple steps—reduce, reuse and recycle—we can all take on a local level to keep litter out of our waterways. On a higher level, I also wanted the students to see that no matter what their ae or how big the program, their actions count, and that they have the ability to make a difference in the future of our world. Wright hopes to work for a company that develops technology to remove litter “from our planet’s waterways.”

Jared Tanaka
Tanaka, active in 4-H and FA, wrote that he “developed passions for the many aspects of the agriculture industry” as a result of his experiences,” which include developing and maintaining a cattle herd. “I have now spent a decade and a half developing a purebred shorthorn herd from which I can raise calves for freezer beef to market locally, grow out heifers as replacements for other youth or ranches, and simply bask in the joy of having cows.” Tanaka aspires to manage at least 30 cows in his herd. He concluded this essay by quoting the FFA creed “…exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.”

The annual deadline to apply for the Friends of the Fair scholarships is 5 p.m., March 1. Applicants must be a Solano County high school graduate with plans to major in agricultural-related field at a California college. More information on the scholarship application rules is available on the Friends of the Fair Facebook site at Applications must be on Friends of the Fair forms and include a personal essay and letters of support. They are to be mailed to the Friends of the Fair, P.O. Box 242, Dixon, Calif.

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.

The scholarship committee, chaired by Hamel, also includes Tootie Huffman, Kathy Keatley Garvey and Linda Molina of Vacaville, and Marty Scrivens of Dixon. Huffman serves as treasurer of the all-volunteer Friends of the Fair, and Scrivens as secretary.

The Friends’ Plaza was dedicated May 5 in honor of legendary volunteer Donnie Huffman of Vacaville, founding president of the Friends; some 18 founding members; and seasonal volunteers. A photo of Huffman, who is battling terminal cancer, appears on the temporary banner. It will soon to be replaced with a bronze plaque.