One Man's Lasting Influence
Leo Spitzbart, manager of the State Fair from 1935 to 1957, grew up in Salem on his father’s prune orchard overlooking the fair. “In fact, he was so close that he could look over the grounds, and it was natural that he was around the grounds a lot,” the Salem Statesman
reported in 1955. Spitzbart remembered “the first nickel he ever earned was at the fairgrounds.”
A favorite part of Spitzbart’s job was awarding thousands of scholarships to 4-H students who exhibited their work at the fair. The scholarships allowed students to attend a two-week, 4-H camp at Oregon State University, where Spitzbart received a degree in agriculture.
In 1948, 4-H awarded 1,800 scholarships worth $24 each, for the 10-day, annual 4-H Summer School on the OSU campus.
Spitzbart's efforts did not go unrecognized. The students who received scholarships during Spitzbart's tenure showed their appreciation by writing countless thank you letters to him, a few of which are shown below. And, Oregon State University now offers the Leo G. Spitzbart Memorial Scholarship to an outstanding 4-H member who has participated in the State Fair and who plans to attend OSU.
Here is a sampling of letters written by grateful children to Spitzbart. Click on a letter to enlarge it.