July 8, 2024 at 3:19 p.m.

Intern has given fair a boost

Kaden Khayyata has helped fair board
Jay County Fair sponsorship intern Kaden Khayyata reviews some of his photos during the baby contest Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Building. In his intern role, Khayyata helped to secure sponsors for the fair and this week is acting as a junior fair board member. (The Commercial Review/Ray Cooney)
Jay County Fair sponsorship intern Kaden Khayyata reviews some of his photos during the baby contest Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Building. In his intern role, Khayyata helped to secure sponsors for the fair and this week is acting as a junior fair board member. (The Commercial Review/Ray Cooney)

Kaden Khayyata has been out of high school for less than two months.

Even before he walked across the stage in Illinois, he was helping out in Jay County.

Khayyata is the sponsorship intern for the Jay County Fair, with his duties expanding far beyond reaching out to potential businesses to seek funding for the annual event.

“He’s been a great addition,” said fair board president Aaron Loy. “He’s kind of just jumped right in wherever he’s needed. He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty and do whatever needs to be done.”

Khayyata fell into the new role with the Jay County Fair by a bit of happenstance. He had started working with Illinois-based Leon Edwards Marketing and had proposed the idea of being a sponsorship intern. The company, in turn, suggested connecting him with a fair.

He had two choices: Champaign County, Illinois, and Jay County, Indiana.

He chose Jay, in large part because of his familiarity with the community.

Khayyata’s grandparents Tom and Margaret Warren lived in Jay County, farming south of Bluff Point. (His family continues to own the property in the area of county road 100 East between county roads 800 South and 900 South.) His paternal grandmother, Marian (Vinson) Orr, was Miss Jay County in 1958.

“So I’ve always been kind of around Jay County,” said Khayyata, whose family moved to Illinois when his father Michael got a job there.

He played baseball, was student body president and worked in the athletics office and student activities office at Buffalo Grove High School. (It is located in the suburbs north of Chicago, about a 255-mile drive from Portland.) He graduated May 22.

While he was still in high school, Khayyata was working remotely to reach out to local businesses on behalf of the fair. Since arriving in Jay County, he’s met with potential sponsors in person. Those efforts included three “Business After Hours” sessions on Zoom last month in an effort to reach out to those who might be unavailable during the regular work day.

One of the new sponsors he worked to bring in was IOM Grain, which has signs on the fairgrounds as well as advertising on the fair’s website and social media.

Khayyata said his goal was to find and meet potential sponsors’ needs — community support, access to event tickets, advertising, publicity, marketing, etc.

“So it’s really looking at their  situation and seeing what exactly do you want out of this sponsorship, and matching them with the best opportunity,” he said. “We have a great array of different sponsorships available for them.”

For the fair board, it’s been helpful to have someone who is available to meet with business representatives during the day. Most of the current fair board is not of retirement age, so they’re working full-time jobs.

“It’s been really nice to have some boots on the ground, essentially, going out and having face-to-face conversations with businesses,” said fair board secretary Dillon Muhlenkamp. “Kaden’s been incredible. He’s really assisted us in our sponsorships.”

Khayyata has helped out in other ways as well, including working in the fair office leading up to this week. He also spent time hanging up banners, mowing and weeding.

With the fair underway, he’s been fulfilling the role of a junior fair board member. That has included picking up trash, counting cars during the Figure 8 racing and participating in the straw races. He’s also had a camera in his hand, helping out with fair publicity.

“Since my grandpa passed away I’ve been really trying to find ways to get back more involved in Jay County, since we don’t live here,” Khayyata said. “This is one of those ways.

“I’ve loved it. It’s been awesome. It’s so much different than anything I’ve ever done before.

“You can see the pride everybody has in the work here, the pride of the community. This is the week for Jay County. It’s really neat to see everybody out here having a good time and being with their friends and family.”

In the fall, Khayyata will head to Ball State University to pursue a degree in sports administration. He hopes to become an athletics director at the collegiate level.

While he’s at BSU, he wants to continue to be involved in the fair.

“As long as they’ll have me, I’ll be here,” he said. “I appreciate the fair board taking a chance on me. I’m glad they trusted me to do that. I’m glad they had that faith in me.”

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