The Montgomery County Fair and Rodeo started March 24. Prior Community Impact coverage reported Brian Hayes, executive director for the Montgomery County Fair Association, introduced a few new changes coming to this year's event, including a new public speaking contest.

Shannon and Mason Parish, coordinator and assistant coordinator for the contest, said they are excited to expand opportunities to youth to participate and compete at the fair.

“STEM fields, including the agricultural industry, need a well-informed and well-spoken workforce,” Shannon Parish said in an email. “The Montgomery County Fair Association added these contests to provide youth with opportunities to showcase their knowledge of agricultural topics while also providing a space for students to practice their speaking and conversational skills.”

The contest, which will be held April 1, is twofold. Contests include a prepared public speaking competition and a discussion meet and debate portion.

According to the public speaking contest pamphlet, students who participate in the prepared public speaking portion must research an agricultural topic, prepare and deliver the speech to a panel of judges. The discussion and debate will allow a group of four to learn about an agricultural topic and discuss potential solutions.

Mason Parish said he and Shannon Parish wanted to introduce the new contests to help students develop skills of communication, research and decorum.

“The addition of these contests represent the Montgomery County Fair's commitment to developing marketable skills and helping position our students for career success,” he said. “When we first pitched these contests, Cody Bartlett, fair president, was enthusiastic, especially of creating new opportunities for students both in 4-H and FFA, but also those in other organizations like speech and debate.”

First-, second- and third-place winners of the contest will receive a belt buckle and a cash prize.

“We knew a strong prize package would be necessary to promote the contest,” Mason Shannon said. “The Montgomery County Farm Bureau did not hesitate to sponsor prizes for both contests.”

The public speaking contest will start April 1 at 11 a.m. at the exhibit building, 9201 Airport Road, Conroe. Registration will begin beforehand from 10-10:45 a.m. on the day of. The discussion and meet contest will start at 2 p.m. Registration is from 1-1:45 p.m. The entry fee is $20.

Participants can learn more about the contests and register here.