The Hall of Fame awards given at the convention are not intended for the musical talents. Rather those individuals who have made significant lifetime contributions at local county fairs and associated community or area events whose fairs or events are members of INAFFE.
Pat Sheldon's nomination was submitted by the Putnam County Fair and 4-H Club Association Inc. past President Dale Jessup, and was picked by the INAFFE Selection Committee as one of four 2013 Hall of Fame inductees.
Sheldon, who commonly attends the convention, was surprised yet aware something was going on.
"I knew something was up that so many (Putnam County individuals) were coming to the awards luncheon," she said, "but I had no idea that I was receiving this prestigious award!"
Jim Sheldon, Pat's husband, was seated at a table with eight other Putnam County Fair officials that also included her son, Ernie Sheldon (with wife Chris), and granddaughter Val Haddon at the recognition dinner.
Her other son, Ed Sheldon, and his family had slipped quietly into the room and out of sight to help keep the award a surprise. When Pat's resume was read to the audience, watching Pat's facial expression was sheer delight for other Putnam attendees as she realized she was the recipient.
INAFFE has four districts, and Putnam County is in District 1, which is the northwest quarter of Indiana (roughly St. Joseph County south to Hendricks County and west to Vermillion County).
Each year, INAFFE may induct up to one person from each district to its Hall of Fame. Applications must be submitted by member fairs. The Putnam County Fair and 4-H Club Association Inc., which owns and manages the Putnam County Fairgrounds, is an INAFFE member.
This is a significant award in a number of ways. Some years there are fewer than four awards distributed. District 1 is a competitive district considering the large fairs and communities of northwest Indiana with numerous volunteers who make those fairs happen.
Sheldon is only the third person from Putnam County to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining Edith Fry (1990) and Kenny Harris (1992) as past inductees.
The INAFFE Hall of Fame award was initiated in 1985 and has included 126 individuals from around Indiana.
Jim and Pat Sheldon are considered icons of the Putnam County Fair, particularly in recent years in the 4-H Exhibit Hall during the fair. Both are beginning their 42nd year as 4-H Leaders and their 40th year of involvement with the Putnam County Fair Board. They are nearly always seen working together.
When initially discussing the Sheldon nomination, Dale Jessup and County Extension Director Mark Evans had planned for the nomination to include both Jim and Pat Sheldon. However, rules for the nomination process do not allow for couples or multiple individuals to receive the award.
After an in-depth discussion about the situation, Evans and Jessup decided to ask the Sheldons' sons, Ernie and Ed, which one should be nominated.
Ernie said, "Dad would want mom to have the award without question." Ed agreed, and so it was that Pat was the nominee.
After the program, Pat was typically humble.
"The only reason I received this award," she said, "is because of all the help I have had from people like Shirley Ruark, Vicki Timm, Donna McKean and other 4-H youth and parents or 4-H club assistants through the years who have helped me out."
While Pat credited others for involvement, she has contributed significantly to 4-H and the Putnam County community. Until a couple years ago, the Community Buildings at the fairgrounds had poor or no cell phone reception due to the construction of the buildings, and she worked with 4-H youth to raise funds and enable signal boosters to provide for cell phone reception.
She had been involved with Extension Homemakers during 20 years of her volunteer career and additionally served in numerous 4-H volunteer capacities including 4-H Council, advisory board, Expansion and Review Committee and numerous other active committees.
Her family obviously is following in her footsteps as three generations have now been involved as fair officials.