Tom Downing of Winchester was one of seven people recognized at the 89th Ohio Fair Managers Association annual convention on Jan. 10, for outstanding service to their local fairs. Tom received the Director’s Award of Excellence and Innovation for his progressive ideas and actions to improve and strengthen our local county fair. Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David T. Daniels awarded him the plaque.
In 1977, Tom began his long journey with 4-H. His oldest daughter, Barbara, started by showing dairy cattle and then sheep became the family project. Tom’s other children, Leslie and Chad, also showed sheep, with Leslie showing pigs two of her nine years. Tom has participated in youth 4-H ever since. His participation involved 13 years with his own three children, years of working with neighbor kids and other friends to raise herds of sheep for other youth to purchase. Every year Tom would volunteer his time in helping the senior and junior members with whatever their needs for the fair.
In June of 1989, about five weeks from the fair in July, Tom was in a vehicle accident that shortened the life of his only son, Chad. Chad loved the farm life and especially 4-H. He was very committed to his projects. The community rallied around Tom and Jane that year. Chad’s two sheep were sold at the junior fair livestock sale. Tom and Jane used the proceeds to start the Chad Downing Scholarship. They wrote the By-Laws that have been enforced every year. One of the By-Laws that was very important to them is in the year that Chad would have been a senior, every senior that graduated and had participated in 4-H would receive a scholarship. This scholarship has been going strong for 24 years providing funds for graduating seniors that were involved in 4-H throughout their high school years. Tom and his family have given about 75 scholarships totaling around $37,500.
Tom has also been a township trustee for 26 years in Wayne Township. During his years as trustee he has been able to provide assistance to the fair in many ways. Under Tom’s guidance, equipment has been provided to help prepare the fair grounds for events each year. Gravel, materials, and labor have been donated to improve the fair. In 2012, Tom donated time and supplies to improve the sheep barn at the fair.
Downing attends every animal show to support the children and will be seen congratulating them and parents on their projects. He goes to the small and large livestock sales, purchasing animals along with the baked good sales. He wants to support every area of the fair that helps children. Tom is now 76 years old and has delved back into 4-H with the involvement of his grandchildren. He has supported those grandchildren in their beef projects and takes a more hands on approach with those grandchildren that take sheep projects. As of 2013, Tom has been directly or indirectly involved with youth 4-H for 36 years.