Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Franklin County Fair: A 4-H Tradition

franklin county fairIt’s that time again. Everyone at Franklin County Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) is preparing for August 3rd and the official start of 168th annual Franklin County Fair. Extension staff, 4-H youth, and committed volunteers are working diligently toward making every fair-goer’s visit to the 4-H youth building and the livestock barns meaningful, educational, and wholly enjoyable.

Yes. The fair is great shows, carnival rides, and food. And there will be a midway full of rides, games and attractions, and a wide variety of commercial exhibits and concessions. But the Franklin County Fair is about much more than carnival rides, music, fried dough, French fries, and trying to win brightly colored stuffed animals.

The Franklin County Fair was originally called the “Franklin County Agricultural Society” because of its agricultural focus. The name is still presented over the front gate, located on U.S. Route 11, and the price of admission still includes access to all of the agricultural events and attractions. These displays, presentations, and competitions bring to light the rich and diverse agricultural heritage of Franklin County and provide an opportunity for neighbors and visitors to see working farm animals, livestock competitions, and many of the time-honored traditions familiar to agricultural families in northern New York.

CCE of Franklin County endeavors to carry on with the traditions of an agricultural fair. And, as 4-H member-families decorate and ready the stalls and pens that will temporarily be home to cherished cows, horses, goats, and sheep, words cannot describe the love, pride, and individual care given by remarkably enthusiastic boys and girls to their exceptionally-well-cared-for animals.

franklin county fairVisitors are encouraged to view these much-loved animals in their pens and stalls and to enjoy the many livestock and equestrian exhibits, demonstrations, shows, and competitions taking place daily in the 4-H show pavilion. You’re welcome to bring your family and a camera, and enjoy an exciting, fun filled afternoon learning about farming; the source of our food and many of the other items we use and take for granted in our daily lives.

Franklin County 4-H youth, all of the animals, and the traditional lineup of 4-H activities and competitions have been part of the rich heritage of the Fair for as long as most 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) families can remember. And the Franklin County Fair Board has upheld an enduring tradition of support for both FFA and Cooperative Extension 4-H programs and 4-H youth.

The Fair is not a part of the 4-H program and CCE and the Fair Board are not directly related. Still, both organizations have been cooperating for generations to assure continued success at one of the largest county fairs in the region. The Fair continues to be a place where 4-H members and others in the community can come together to exhibit their skills, their craftsmanship, their showmanship, and their animals. And it remains a showcase for 4-H and FFA members exhibiting their prized livestock, as well as their garden, home economics, and crafts projects. On display are homegrown and handmade items of all kinds; fruits and vegetables, artwork, photography, and a wide variety of creative projects; each one sporting an award ribbon.

Participation in the County Fair really does make a difference in the lives of our young children. Preparation for the Fair requires an investment of time and energy that results in our club-members developing project-related management, decision making, leadership, communication, public speaking, and other life skills. The experience builds character, self-esteem, confidence, and relationships, and teaches children about setting and reaching goals, working together in solidarity, and community pride. It’s a time of positive experiences, memories, and of lasting friendships.

At Cornell Cooperative Extension, we believe that the County Fair is a time to celebrate the bounty of local agriculture, the spirit of our communities, and the accomplishments of our 4-H youth. We know that kids who participate in 4-H get better grades, give back to their communities, and are more likely to go to college. We’re working to increase awareness of the important contributions that agriculture has made to the historical development of Franklin County; to educate about present-day agricultural business and community activities; and to promote greater awareness of agriculture and agricultural issues that are relevant to Franklin County and all North Country citizens and civic organizations.

4-H is a community of seven million young people around the world learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills. C’mon out to the Franklin County Fair and show your support for all of our 4-H’ers. And if you have children Interested in joining 4-H, contact your local County Cooperative Extension Office to find out about clubs meeting in your area.

Photos of Scenes from the Franklin County Extension 4-H Youth Building at the 2017 Franklin County Fair provided.

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Richard Gast is a retired Extension Program Educator and has been contracted by Cornell Cooperative Extension Franklin County to continue his informative and thought provoking articles.

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