By Megan Mann, Livestock and Natural Resources agent
County fairs have always had a significant role to play in rural communities. Fairs bring members of the community together for fun, fellowship, and learning while offering folks an opportunity to showcase their artistry, culinary skills, and farming successes. This April, the Lake County Fair celebrated its 96th iteration. Lake County has seen a lot of change over the last 96 years, but the traditions of the county fair have remained a positive constant. Directed by a board of dedicated volunteers, the Lake County Fair is part of what makes our community a wonderful place to live and to visit.
4-H in the County Fair
Lake County 4-H has also had a long history in our community. Administered in Florida by the University of Florida’s IFAS Extension Services and present in each of Florida’s 67 counties, 4-H provides youth the opportunity to “learn by doing” through hands-on work in a variety of project areas. Since 1911 Lake County youth have developed life skills by engaging in areas of interest ranging from cattle farming and ranching to computers and robotics. Participants have the opportunity to enjoy hands-on experiential learning, share their knowledge with others, participate in community service projects, and develop leadership skills.
The name “4-H” is a reference to the letter H occurring four times in the youth development organization’s original motto ‘head, heart, hands, and health.’ 4-H members in Lake County engaged all four “H’s” at the 2017 Lake County Fair. Participants raised livestock ranging from laying hens to beef heifers. As part of their projects, they provide daily care for the animal and maintain records of their expenditures, medications, and feeding practices. The project culminates with the opportunity to exhibit their animals at the Lake County Fair. Market projects, such as steers and swine, are sold to the highest bidder at the conclusion of the show while other projects such as heifers and rabbits return home with the exhibitors and are often bred to seed the following year’s projects. Youth give demonstrations about their projects at the club, County, and district level where they learn how to organize their thoughts and speak with confidence in front of a crowd. Participants also submit their record books for grading and receive ribbons and premiums based on the quality and thoroughness of their records. The livestock shows draw large crowds to the Lake County Fair and bring community members and local businesses together to celebrate and support youth in agriculture.
As part of their livestock projects, youth also participate in skill-a-thons. Skill-a-thon is a practical test of the knowledge that youth have gained as a result of project work. This year the skill-a-thon centered on products and marketing. Youth learned about the connection that their project animal has with production agriculture, identified different agricultural commodities, and explored cooking techniques related to their product. Over 700 skill-a-thons were completed during the 2017 Lake County Fair.
4-H creative talent
4-H involvement at the Lake County fair is not limited to the barns. The fair dedicates an entire building to showcasing the creative talents of Lake County youth. 4-H Youth exhibition projects were ranging from woodworking and stained glass to canning and sewing. The building is staffed with 4-H volunteers who share 4-H with visitors and recruit new members and volunteers to the program. Sunday night at the fair featured a 4-H talent show known as “Share the Fun.” 4-H members sang, acted, and played instruments to the delight of the crowd. Top performers in each age group will be representing the county at district competition in May.
4-H and the Lake County Fair go hand-in-hand. The relationship between the two organizations is steeped in tradition yet geared for the future. Mark your calendars now for the 2018 Lake County Fair, April 5th-14th and plan to come out and see firsthand the positive power of youth and agriculture in our community.To learn more about the Lake County Fair, please visit www.lakecofair.com.
UF/IFAS Lake County 4-H will be welcoming a new 4-H agent, Mrs. Dallas Daniels, on May 15th. We are excited to add her talent and enthusiasm to our program. For more information on getting involved with Lake County 4-H, please visit lake.ifas.ufl.edu/4-H or call 352.343.4101.