Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thank Goodness for the County Fair

There are very few memories I have about my spring and summers growing up that don’t include “going to the fair.” Those memories include my family since this is often what we called “summer vacation.” When you grow up the daughter of a dairyman, getting away from the dairy for an extended amount of time is a challenge. But when it came to show day and sale day at the May Day Fair in Los Banos and the Merced County Fair in July, I knew Dad and Mom would be ringside holding a brush or a halter.

I am certain the same story still resonates today for the many local kids and their families who will participate in the Silver Dollar Fair in Chico, May 26-30 and the Butte County Fair in Gridley, August 25-29. While I might not have known it then, the experience has made me who I am today. It’s the exact reason that 4-H and FFA programs and their continued growth and success in our community are so important to me now. It’s about the lessons in responsibility, humility, and respect that I took away from the show ring. Knowing how to balance a check book and fill in a check before I left for college were lessons that many kids don’t have. Developing a work ethic I carry today because the animals needed to be fed before I went to school and then again before I ate my dinner. And never leaving the show ring, regardless of where I finished in the lineup, without shaking the judge’s hand.

It is these youth programs that will produce our future local business owners, teachers, elected officials and consumers of our agricultural goods. I would even bet that a good percentage of you reading this article can say you are also a product of 4-H or FFA programs and know exactly what I am talking about.

The Saturday of the fair has always been reserved for the Junior Livestock Auction where 4-H and FFA exhibitors display their market ready livestock projects for the last time. These youngsters have bought either a pig, lamb, steer, goat, chicken or rabbit, and fed, exercised, washed, pampered, and paraded each in front of a judge all while paying for the feed, supplies and entry fees to get to the goal – sale day. And just like your business, there was risk, but it’s all part of the process.

The young exhibitors of the Silver Dollar Fair and the Butte County Fair need your help. You might be thinking there is no way you can buy an entire steer or maybe your freezer has no room for a whole pig but you still want to help. The good news is you have options. First, if you want to be a buyer at the upcoming Silver Dollar Fair in Chico, you will need to register. Call the fair office at (530) 895-4666 to get the registration form. If an entire animal is not for you, consider combining resources with your neighbors or friends to split the purchase.

Another alternative is to make a contribution to the buyers’ groups who help support youth exhibitors. The “Cartel” collects donations from individuals and businesses and supports the Silver Dollar Fair auction by buying animals, and giving you or your business recognition without you having to be there on sale day. For information on how to contribute to The Cartel, contact Rick Cinquini at (530) 570-4771.

The Feather River Buyers Group does the same thing for exhibitors at the Butte County Fair in August. To contribute to the Feather Rivers Buyers Group, call Mary McMurphy at (530) 534-7783.

Butte County Famr Bureau Executive Director Colleen Cecil during her early 4-H career.

I hope to see many of you on Saturday, May 29 at the Silver Dollar Fair for the Junior Livestock Auction. And don’t worry; I know August is still a few months away, so look for a reminder to attend the Butte County Fair Junior Livestock Auction in a future issue. It’s been many years since I last entered a show ring but I look forward to seeing my son in the show ring in a few years learning the same values I did.

Reprinted with permission from the Butte County Farm Bureau News, May/June 2011

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