County Fairs are America's harvest festivals. Almost anywhere there is agriculture, from New England to California, you will find county fairs in August and September. Last weekend I went to the local Grant Count Fair.
The heart of the Grant County Fair is the 4H
and the livestock competitions. This is the livestock barn where it all takes place.
Budding farmers bring the animals they have raised here to demonstrate their skills in animal husbandry and showmanship.
Grooming and condition of the animal are important factors in the judging.
Animal handling skills are another important factor in winning the grand prize.
The winning entrants will be the those that are the best animal from a market standpoint, that received the best care, and whose owners showed the most skill in handling their animal.
The barn houses cattle, pigs sheep and goats which are each judged separately.
The fair also has classes for smaller animals, chickens, rabbits and the like but in Grant County at least, these are not as important.
Each entrant has cared for their animal since it was born. Now they are marketable size and ready for judging.
The competition is a test of the owner's ability to choose a good animal and then raise it to peak condition.
There is a lot of work involved in raising any farm animal and the kids do all the work themselves.
Although sometimes they get advice and support from friends.
Local merchants contribute to a variety of prizes and awards for participants. Each participant shows their animal before a panel of judges where each is graded on the qualities of both the animal and on the skills of the owner.
Purple, blue, red and pink ribbons are awarded for each type of animal. Purple is the best.
After the judging awards are passed out to participants. The ribbons are recognition for the best animals while the awards are recognitions of the qualities of the youths.
Some of the awards are useful and some are ornamental but all are treasured.
But the biggest event at the county fair is the livestock auction.
This is conducted like any other livestock auction but it is not a market auction since family friends and local businesses will bid the prices up far above regular market prices.
The prize winning animals will get the highest prices but everybody can expect a pretty good payday for their efforts.
4H/FFA has been a part of the education of generations of farmers where they learn about hard work,
about caring for animals,
and about the business end of farming.
This is the heart of the Grant County Fair. Future farmers and farming's future.