Clark County Fair has tremendous impact on youth development, officials say

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Youth programs such as FFA and 4-H have a significant impact on the surrounding community, say local officials as they prepare for the annual Clark County Fair set to open Friday.

“Employers in Clark County find that 4-H has taught these young people great work ethic,” 4-H Youth Development Educator Patty House said. “I like to say that 4-H is building those life skills that make young people productive.”

These programs teach children and young adults important life skills such as responsibility, time management and finance, said House.

According to House, 4-H is a positive youth development experience that engages young people in hands-on learning. The projects range from animals to environmental education. There are over 200 4-H projects.

“The goal is to encourage young people to explore and find their passion,” House said.

Although some only associate 4-H with the fair, the fair is the showcase for projects that children have worked on all year long. This year over 1,100 kids, ages 5-18 will participate in 4-H.

“The community impact is absolutely huge,” Clark County Fairgrounds Executive Director Dean Blair said. “I think FFA and 4-H and the work ethic they create, the good habits they create, the interaction with adults and businesses. It’s absolutely invaluable.”

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Blairrecalled his personal experiences at the fair and with FFA, which he said taught him management tactics and public speaking.

“Responsibility, work ethic, good values, it’s all those things that are so important that our society is a little short of,” Blair said.

Recent Springfield High School graduate Thomas Edwards has shown market lambs for 10 years and said 4-H is a generational tradition in his family. Both his older sister and father participated in 4-H.

“4-H is everything to me. I’ve made my best friends through 4-H. I’ve learned all of my life skills through 4-H,” he said.

Edwards also said it has helped him build his social and leadership skills. In 2019, he was the 4-H King which led him to get involved in a number of community service projects. Edwards, who will be attending Columbia University in the fall, said 4-H played a big part in his acceptance to the university.

“When I was applying, a lot of my essays were tailored to my experiences in 4-H. Once I got accepted, my admissions counselor told me that all of the stuff in 4-H is what caught their eye, that is how they knew that I would be an excellent member of their campus and student body.”

“It’s my last year, and I’ve already had a couple of emotional nights realizing I’m not going to be able to do this much longer,” he said. “I think for a lot of us, the fair week is our favorite time of year, more exciting than Christmas.”

Blair does not expect to set any records with attendance this year but is hoping for around 75,000 people, compared to 2019′s numbers of over 83,000 people.

The Clark county fair, which consistently brings together about 80,000 people each year, creates an atmosphere for businesses to network and locals to spend money.

“Because it’s a local fair, I think most people are like me who want to do business with someone locally if at all possible, and what better way to meet local businesses and interact with them than at the fair,” Blair said.

Blair also says the 4-H industry has an economic impact both from 4-H kids who must buy different supplies and from community members who buy the animals.

“They spend their money at the junior fair, and all of sudden that roughly three-quarters of a million dollars for the gross sale turns over and is reinvested in the community as those young people turn around and spend that money back into this community.”

In addition, the car dealer shows, mercantile building businesses, outdoor vendors and food vendors provide opportunities for over 100 different businesses to create sales and make connections.

How to go:

What: Clark County Fair

Where: 4401 S. Charleston Pike, Springfield

When: Gates open daily at 8 a.m. July 23-30.

Cost: Admission is $6, which includes parking and all admissions to concerts and shows. Admission is free for children five and under. Ride tickets and wristbands are sold separately.

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