For more than 20 years, Ken Kramer has been a part of the Kitsap County Fair. His work has included three years as the superintendent of the open class photography exhibits, nine years on the Kitsap County Fair Board, and another nine years as superintendent of the 4-H photography exhibits. Some who know him just call him “Mr. Photography.” Others call him the best kind of volunteer the fair could have.
“I just enjoy watching the kids grow and develop their skills,” he said, of his work with 4-H. “I see these kids when they are 8 or 9 years old all the way thorough high school. And some of them come back as adults and help us out.”
Kramer hasn’t kept track of the hours he’s given to the fair and 4-H. But it’s been steady.
“I haven’t got a clue,” he said. “But it’s been a lot.”
Not only does he work from sun up to sun down during the fair and the two weeks prior to the fair, but he’s there for the 4-H photography clubs through the year. He also is a member of the Pacific Northwest Photographers Society, and even month he meets with that group — many of whom are youth — taking them on field trips to help them learn on-the-job photography skills.
Kramer’s been interested in photography for as long as he can remember. He worked for WKBW TV in Buffalo, New York, where he grew up. Then he did a four-year stunt as a photographer in the Navy.
Following that, he was a freelance photographer for the Sacramento Bee and for the Associated Press. During that time he met and photographer presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. After he retired, he moved to the Pacific Northwest for a civil service job and settled in Silverdale. When he retired again, he needed something to do and began lending his photography skills to the fair.
“They brought me in as a judge, and it just grew from there,” he said. He also judges photography at the Puyallup Fair.
For the Kitsap fair, he and two assistant superintendents and five volunteers, begin two weeks out taking in the entries. After they are judged, they hang the photos for display at the fair, and attach the appropriate ribbons to those that have placed in the competition.
“Photography has really grown in the years that I’ve been here,” he said. “When I began, we had about 150 photos entered. In 2009, we had about 260. Last year we had 386. We’ve had to keep adding wall panels to display them on.”
The photos, and all still life, including 4-H and Open Class, are shown in Presidents Hall. He and his crew are at the fair every day to talk to those who come by to see the photos.
“We like to be there to answer questions and to encourage kids to join and parents and adults to volunteer,” he said. “It takes about 350 volunteers and 35,000 hours of volunteered time to carry out the 4-H program.”
Kramer said this is the 100th year for 4-H in Kitsap County.
“It was small in the beginning, teaching mostly family living and livestock — things like cooking, sewing and farming,” he said. “But now we have more than 50 clubs in the county and we teach everything — even robotics and engineering.”
In fact, 4-H has been the place for students to learn things like sewing and cooking because home economic isn’t taught in the school anymore. There are also classes in etiquette that include how to sit at a formal dinner and what fork to use.
And because this is the 100th year for 4-H in Kitsap County, Kramer is overseeing the 100th Birthday Challenge. The contest is open to all 4-H groups and involves making a display with photos, posters and decorations on the topic of the birthday and what their individual club does. The displays will be up during the fair and will be judges with cash awards.
“It’s just a little challenge for everybody,” he said. “We want them to show all the great aspects of 4-H to help promote 4-H and get more kids and parents involved.”
He’s also making displays using photographs of 4-H throughout the years, to help celebrate the 100th year. And he’s been active in keeping the fair scrapbooks every year. As for his time when he’s not volunteering for 4-H, Kramer said there isn’t any.
“I don’t have time for anything else,” he said, adding that his wife also helps with the 4-H photography, taking in entries at the fair and doing other projects. They have four grown children, one in Oregon and three in California.
When fair time rolls around, Kramer gets excited for friends and food.
“It’s like a reunion,” he said. “I see people that I only see once a year — at the fair. We’re all old friends.”
And, when he can slip away, he grabs a scone or two and a burger almost every day from Crazy Eric’s.