Richard Woodcock was named the 2019 Illinois Outstanding County Fair Person of the Year during County Fair Day at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield on Friday.
Woodcock, who began his involvement with the Monroe County Fair as a 4-H member when the fair was held at Pautler Park in Waterloo, said he was “surprised” by the recognition.
“I didn’t expect to be nominated, much less awarded. It is quite an honor,” Woodcock added.
Woodcock has been a member of the Monroe County Fair Board for more than 40 years, serving as treasurer for more than 30 years.
Monroe County Fair Association President Don Schrader, who nominated Woodcock, said that this award is “not something that comes easy because you have people nominated from all over the state.”
Criteria for nomination include advancing the perception of the agriculture industry, improving public understanding of the important role county fairs play in Illinois agriculture and benefitting others by giving time, ideas or advice concerning county fairs and agriculture-related causes, according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s nomination form.
Woodcock has accomplished all of these feats through a lifetime of agricultural work.
He began raising sheep as a teenager and then began shearing sheep after his FFA advisor, Harold Drake, taught him. Woodcock turned his experience into a sheep shearing business.
He then worked at Purina for 48 years in the animal nutrition department, retiring in 2016, but still had time to give back to the community.
In addition to fair board treasurership, Woodcock has been the fair’s superintendent of the sheep department for more than 25 years and was instrumental in beginning the lamb auction at the fair.
Woodcock is also the president of the Monroe County Sheep Producers and was the “driving force” behind the creation of the Southern Illinois Sheep and Craft Festival, according to Schrader. That event takes place every spring at the fairgrounds.
Woodcock served as treasurer for the Monroe County 4-H Education and Extension Foundation for over 30 years while helping 4-H members with sheep projects over the years as a club leader.
“(Woodcock) has helped countless youth get their start with raising sheep, from assisting with the purchase of their first market lamb to mentoring,” Schrader commented, adding that “he has started many youth with their first sheep project with market lambs from his own herd. Richard is a firm believer that youth are the greatest investment in our future and the future of agriculture.”
In addition to his work with the community, Woodcock has also worked on making the Monroe County Fairgrounds better by working on remodeling and groundwork projects.
His work was recognized at the state fair when Gov. JB Pritzker awarded a plaque to Woodcock thanking him for “dedicated support in the improvement and development of county fairs in the State of Illinois.”
Woodcock was unaware of the award until being contacted by Schrader and his wife, Karen, a few days before he was recognized.
Woodcock says that this award “speaks for our fair for someone from Southern Illinois to win.”
Woodcock is “very deserving of this special award,” Schrader said. “He has sheared thousands of sheep during his lifetime and he bears all the characteristics of a true shepherd: patient, kind, loving and caring.”