Danica Kirkpatrick

Engagement Program Manager,
College of Agriculture

Each year Spring Fest attracts visitors from campus and the community to learn about topics ranging from bugs to astronomy. Planning for the event, which draws in more than 40,000 visitors, is a challenge that Danica Kirkpatrick is up to taking.

Kirkpatrick, engagement program manager for the College of Agriculture, coordinates Spring Fest each year by working with departments, student organizations and numerous other contacts to make the dynamic two-day event a success.

Danica Kirkpatrick

What are your responsibilities as an event planner?

In the College of Agriculture, most people know me as the organizer of Spring Fest. Spring Fest is an annual event that showcases the lighter side of higher education. We have every department or college on campus involved now. People best remember Spring Fest because of events like Bug Bowl, the vet school open house or the horticulture show. But all of those come together under the umbrella of Spring Fest. I'm responsible for the logistics and making sure that the event is the best it can be.

Is Spring Fest the main event you coordinate?

I do a lot of work for Spring Fest, but I also do lots of other events throughout the year for the College of Agriculture. I coordinate our presence at different farm shows around the country. I also help with Purdue's presence at the Indiana State Fair. Not just Purdue Day -- we actually have exhibits on display for the entire run of the fair. I help coordinate about 200 volunteers during the fair and make sure that our exhibits stay working and well taken care of. I've also been given the opportunity to organize the Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry, which takes place each February.

How far ahead to you start planning for Spring Fest?

We’ve had our planning meetings in November or December in the past, but this year we decided to wait until January. The majority of the planning happens from January to April, but we are always looking for ways to improve and find different ways to market the event. The committee is great at finding new and exciting things for our visitors. We always have new people interested in participating so it takes time to orient them with the process.

What's your favorite part of your job?

The nature of some jobs doesn't give you the satisfaction of seeing the product of your work. But when you do event planning you get to see that very often. When people have told me that they come to this event year after year because they have fun, or they are grateful they had a chance to participate in something and they thought it was well-organized, that's one of my favorite parts of my job.

With Spring Fest there's so much going on at one time. How do you coordinate all the different aspects?

You're right, it is really spread out and really the majority of the work that I have to do for Spring Fest is all done before the event starts. When it comes down to the day of the event, each of the colleges and departments are responsible for what is happening inside their tents. So they are the ones that the people are there to see. They are the ones who are there to shine and show the lighter side of education. If they need anything, I'm there to support them. I'm the contact if the police need to talk to somebody or if there were to be a medical emergency.

What are some examples of things you do to prepare for Spring Fest?

I meet with a lot of the service providers, including tent companies, electricians and grounds crew. Those folks really help lay the infrastructure for our event to be a success. I appreciate working with them and making plans several months prior to the event.

We create publications and distribute those to schools in Tippecanoe and the surrounding counties.. I spend a lot of time meeting with student groups and talking through ideas about what they might like to do to educate the public and what the audience might like to see from them at Spring Fest.

How many different schools, colleges and people are involved in Spring Fest?

The Spring Fest committee has about 40 people or so from every college and school on campus, plus several units and student organizations. My emails go to about 40 people who are the representatives for their area; they may have three or four helping them, or they may have 200 people helping them. So the number of people that help with Spring Fest is about 2,000 people. Then when we have good weather, we have about 40,000 visitors over the two days of Spring Fest.

* Spring Fest will be April 14-15. More information is at www.extension.purdue.edu/sfest.