Riley Buttorff stood in front of a crowded room, proudly holding her plaque. The Florida State Fair recognized the spunky 10-year-old Feb. 21, for being the youngest person to volunteer with the Florida State Fair.
It made sense. The room was filled with retired snowbirds. All have worked more than 40 hours at the fair this year. Some have worked over a whopping 200 hours, such as Jerry Morris. His electric wheelchair doesn’t stop him from coming back time and time again.
“You have to remember this can be very addicting,” Morris says, warning Riley when she returned to her table after the presentation.
It was Morris who brought Riley to the attention of fair organizers, hoping to merit her a reward. He oversaw the area she worked in and watched out for the fair fledgling. He brought her a corn dog halfway through the shift and even taught her about the “Peggy Point,” as to not offend different cultures when pointing while giving directions.
“She’s done a good job,” Morris says. “She learned (more quickly) than any volunteer I had before. I was surprised how much she learned in just five minutes of looking at the map.”
Accompanied by family friend, Mary Pigan, Riley worked for one day near the horticulture building “where the pencil sketches are,” passing out maps and giving directions. The incredibly articulate Cork Elementary student had no trouble talking to fair-goers.
“My favorite part was just helping people and hanging out and meeting all the people from different places in Florida,” Riley says.
Riley is no stranger to the fair. Pigan also serves as her mentor, showing Riley everything she knows about plants and chickens. This year, Riley had four chickens at the fair — Goldie, Molly, Champ and The Rooster — and three different plants. In all, she won five ribbons.
“I think it teaches responsibility,” says Chaun Buttorff, Riley’s father, of volunteering. “It teaches them to pick up the eggs, take care of something. And I think that’s missing now days.”
Riley turned 11 shortly after the fair ended. But, hopefully, her new record won’t be broken anytime soon. Children aren’t allowed to volunteer unless they are accompanied by an adult.
And Morris may be right about the volunteer addiction. Riley already has plans to volunteer next year.
“Next year, I want to volunteer with the livestock, with the cows and chickens,” Riley says. “And on Saturday, get all my friends together and all volunteer.”
Contact Amber Jurgensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.