Retired Meadowlark Extension District agents Jody Holthaus (left) and Nancy Nelson will serve as grand marshals of this year’s Jackson County Fair Parade, set for Wednesday, July 27. Holthaus and Nelson came to Jackson County in 1988 and were familiar faces around the Extension office until their retirements in late 2021. (Photo by Brian Sanders)

Former Extension leaders Holthaus and Nelson to lead 2022 Fair parade

For more than 30 years, Jody Holthaus and Nancy Nelson served the people of Jackson County as Kansas State University Extension agents, providing advice on agricultural and home science topics and working with 4-H kids to build a better Jackson County Fair.

This year, Holthaus and Nelson, both of whom retired from the Meadowlark Extension District in Holton last year, will lead the fair parade — set for Wednesday, July 27 — as its grand marshals, which both say is an honor and a surprise.

“We’ve been through a lot together since 1988, and I think the biggest thing we can say, with Jody retiring at the end of September and me retiring at the end of December, is that we’re friends,” Nelson said recently as they reflected on the changes the fair and Extension have seen between their arrivals and retirements.

1988 was the year that Holthaus and Nelson came Jackson County after working as Extension agents elsewhere. Holthaus came to Jackson County in January of that year after spending seven years in neighboring Nemaha County, while Nelson, who served as an Ellsworth County agent for a decade, arrived the following May.

“There was a hiring freeze on at the time, and Jackson County had no agents. So this was the only way they could get an agent,” Holthaus said. “It was kind of a scary time to be in Extension because things were downsizing, so you kind of looked for the best opportunity.”

But as 1988 went on, Extension’s financial situation changed, said Holthaus, who served as the county office’s agricultural expert while Nelson served as the office’s family and consumer sciences (FACS) agent.

That was also the first year that Holthaus and Nelson were in charge of the Jackson County Fair, which was a Tuesday-through-Thursday event but still took a ton of work. They jokingly wore their “newness” on their sleeves — Holthaus wore a badge that said, “Don’t Ask Me, Ask Nancy,” while Nelson wore one that said, “Don’t Ask Me, Ask Jody.”

Even though the work of that first fair — and the others they oversaw through the years — was exhausting, they said they felt lucky to have a strong volunteer base helping them out.

“One of the things that impressed me was the community and county support,” Nelson said. “In that regard, it was a bigger fair than where I had been for the past 10 years.”

Holthaus agreed, noting that she and Nelson were getting calls from “people who had no connection to the fair but would take that week off for vacation” to assist in making sure the fair ran smoothly.

“That was different from the counties we had come from, where it was only the 4-H people or the open class people who really got involved,” she said.

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The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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