From Saline County 4-H to Mizzou Central coordinator

MU to showcase research, projects, initiatives at State Fair.

  • Published: Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023

Growing up, Sundays were the day for Bizy Beavers 4-H club meetings, and every summer was prep season for the Saline County and Missouri State fairs, said Kaleigh Summers, alumni relations and event coordinator for the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

As a third-generation 4-H’er from a Century Farm family, Kaleigh grew up surrounded by relatives and mentors who helped her forge a deep connection to Missouri agriculture and rural communities.

Now she brings that know-how to MU’s presence at this year’s Missouri State Fair, Aug. 10-20 in Sedalia. As building and event coordinator for Mizzou Central, Kaleigh is helping to lead Mizzou’s effort to show the many ways it serves Missourians across the state.

“The State Fair is the premier agricultural exposition in the state. It’s the perfect place for us to showcase the work we are doing across our whole campus — in engineering, education, arts and science and more — to develop the research, resources and partnerships that help rural communities thrive,” Kaleigh said.

A few of this year’s Mizzou Central highlights:

  • One-on-one consultations with MU Extension experts in areas like animal science and gardening.
  • Information booths with representatives from almost every unit on campus explaining projects, research and new initiatives.
  • Health screenings and food demos.
  • Guest appearances by Mizzou athletes, including those shadowing youths in the 4-H building and livestock barn as they show their animals.

Kaleigh says this project is especially meaningful to her, given her background.

“I have many, many cherished memories over 20 years of working on 4-H projects with my grandmother, going to 4-H activities with the entire family, camping with our friends and family at the county and state fair,” she said.

Serving as Saline County Fair Queen two years in a row taught her the value of volunteerism. Teen Conference, State Congress and Collegiate 4-H national conferences helped her grow leadership skills and clarify career goals.

While getting her degree in agricultural education at MU, she worked for longtime 4-H youth associate Joyce Taylor, helping with State 4-H Congress and 4-H exchange program prep. Kaleigh also was the recipient of the Joyce and Dick Taylor 4-H Scholarship, established by Joyce Taylor and her husband, a longtime supporter of the MU School of Veterinary Medicine.

For several years after graduation, Kaleigh worked in Kansas City as a corporate conference and event planner. When both her mother and a mentor told her about the Mizzou position within days of each other, Kaleigh figured it was time to consider a move.

Kaleigh has been at Mizzou since December 2018. Coordinating this year’s Mizzou Central activities is an especially rewarding challenge.

“It was at Mizzou that I found my real passion for organizations and hospitality that lead me into my career as an event planner,” Kaleigh said. “Now I get to do what I love for the land-grant university I learned it from! Kind of a full circle moment.”

Join us for Mizzou Day at the Missouri State Fair on Thursday, Aug. 10. For a schedule of events, demos, health screenings, giveaways and more during the fair, visit the Welcome to Mizzou Central webpage.

Kaleigh Summers as 2010 Saline County Fair Queen.
Kaleigh Summers in the 4-H building at the Missouri State Fair, ca. 2003.
Kaleigh Summers with Truman the Tiger in 2021.

Writer: Katherine Foran

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