Experience CCE, 4-H at Franklin Co. Fair

I’ve heard it said, “You can’t call yourself a local until you’ve been to the Franklin County Fair.” It’s the area’s longest running tradition and one of the oldest county fairs in New York state.

The 163rd Franklin County Fair is about to get into full swing. And this year’s roster of scheduled events includes concerts, truck and tractor pulls, a demolition derby, harness racing, a stunt drivers thrill show, a bronco and bull riding rodeo, and some very impressive local talent performing at the ‘Franklin County Has Talent’ finals competition.

As always, 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 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 on the east side of Malone, 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 view working farm animals, livestock competitions, and many of the time-honored traditions familiar to agricultural families in Northern New York, who welcome you 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 that we use in our daily lives.

Cornell Cooperative Extension, Franklin County 4-H youth, all of the livestock 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 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 actually 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 prize 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.

We know that participation in the county fair really does make a difference in the lives of our young children. Preparation for County Fair requires an investment of time and energy that results in our youth developing project-related, decision making, leadership, and other life skills. The experience builds character and relationships, and teaches children about setting and reaching goals and working together in solidarity. It’s a time of memories, positive experiences, 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.

CCE of Franklin County is striving to continue with the traditions of a truly agricultural fair. We are 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 citizens and civic organizations.

During the Fair, livestock barns become educational areas where fairgoers get a glimpse of farm animals young and old, ordinary and unusual, and of what it’s like to take responsibility for raising and feeding livestock animals. They learn about the different types and breeds of cattle and about farming life, in general.

Judged livestock competitions are educational experiences too, where visitors learn, not just about animals, but about the sports and recreation that are associated with animals and animal husbandry as well. Participants learn traditional skills, gather experience,and receive prizes. Winners receive recognition, a sense of accomplishment, and the admiration and commendations of their peers.And all share tips about raising livestock.

I’m proud to have participated and to be participating in workshops and hands on activities that allow fairgoers to create and take home distinctively 4-H projects and souvenirs. I have been truly inspired by the effort, creativity and hard work of our 4-H club members as they readied their club exhibits (posters, crafts, scrapbooks, sewing, gardening and woodworking projects) and then submitted them for judging. I’ve taken great pleasure in watching as they decorated and readied the stalls and pens that are temporarily home to their prized horses, cows, goats, and sheep. Words cannot describe the love, pride and individual care given by these remarkable, exuberant boys and girls to their exceptional animals. They won’t all go home with blue ribbons, but as far as I’m concerned, they are all winners.

CCE of Franklin County promotes youth development through 4-H clubs and by offering opportunities to participate in the Franklin County and New York State Fairs, statewide 4-H Youth Gatherings including the State Teen Action Representative Retreat and Albany Capital Days trips, events at Cornell University, National 4-H Conferences, afternoon programs, and much more. There are also shows, field trips and other 4-H experiences and activities, such as those available at Camp Overlook in Mountain View.

Cornell Cooperative Extension encourages you to learn more about our 4-H program, as well as all of the other programs and services that we offer. It’s easy to join 4-H. All you have to do is contact your local Cooperative Extension office.

Get involved. Become one of the many parents, volunteers, community leaders, and Extension staff sharing their time and talents with CCE and 4-H youth in your county. You’ll be glad you did.