Fair season is an exciting time for Ohio’s youth. With 94 county and independent agricultural fairs and a world-class state fair, young people from every part of the state have the opportunity to participate in livestock shows and other projects.
“We take great pride that at the Ohio State Fair, we have representatives from all 88 Ohio counties,” says Alicia Shoults, marketing and public relations director for the Ohio Expo Center and State Fair. “There are more than 20,000 livestock projects alone at the fair, and almost 10,000 non-livestock projects, which include anything from public speaking to news writing to photography to sewing – any sort of interest youth might have.”
Even if students don’t compete in the state fair, they have opportunities in their own counties.
“Participating at a county fair at any level is really a great opportunity for development for our young people,” Shoults says. “Especially since a lot of the fairs are in the summer. It helps them stay fresh and stay on their toes when they’re out of school.”
Colin Gump has shown livestock at county and state fairs for as long as he can remember. He won senior showmanship, and had the champion market lamb in 2013 and the reserve champion in 2014.
“I participated in sports and decided I liked this better,” Gump says. “This is my sport.”
Gump says showing livestock has helped him choose a major and fund his college career.
“I get some money each year from my animals to put into a fund for college,” he says. “I want to go to college for livestock judging and then work in the agriculture industry.”
Shoults says in addition to the scholarships students have the potential to earn through participating in fair events, they also gain lifelong skills.
“I think it teaches our youth a lot about responsibility, accountability and leadership,” she says. “It takes so much time and dedication to prepare a project, and they take pride in these projects. It helps make our youth into more well-rounded individuals.”
Ag Is Cool
Youth of all ages can participate in Ag is Cool, which provides exciting, interactive stations each year at the Ohio State Fair.
Ag is Cool offers programs year-round, such as its fourth grade essay contest. Fourth graders and a chaperone are invited to attend the fair for free. The students then write an essay about what they learned, and winners are awarded a $500 scholarship.
Reese Shull, one of the 2013 essay winners, inspired the sports theme for the 2014 Ag is Cool exhibit.
“Ag has a lot of connections to baseball, my favorite sport,” Reese says. “For example, I learned that baseballs are made from leather, which comes from cows.”
Reese’s mother, Cheri Copeland Shull, says Reese’s visit to the fair and writing the essay were valuable experiences because the Toledo family doesn’t come in contact with agriculture on a regular basis.
“For Reese and my other kids, they understood for the first time that there are farmers who produce the products they use,” she says. “I don’t think he understood the connections until we went to the fair and visited the different stations. You might think of a wool blanket, but you don’t think about all the other things wool is used for. He connected it to baseball, and creating that connection was so valuable. Not coming from an agricultural childhood, I think that was tremendously important.”