Our Views: Celebrate youth, long tradition at Rock County 4-H Fair
Several things are certain as the 85th annual Rock County 4-H Fair opens Tuesday.
First, no one should expect any day like last year’s opener, featuring main stage act Florida Georgia Line. That duo attracted fairgoers from far and wide, filled any and all parking nearby and swamped restrooms as the fair set an all-time attendance mark of 30,667. Fair organizers were unprepared because no one anticipated a turnout that massive.
Sure, one or more acts in this year’s lineup might draw big crowds, but it’s hard to imagine any approaching the draw of that group.
Second, while that opening-day crowd refueled talk of moving the landlocked fair to new grounds, it’s obvious the fair isn’t going anywhere soon. As Gina Duwe reported Sunday, discussions aren’t active, despite two proposals that emerged in the last year or so.
One plan would move the fair to the not-for-profit Southern Wisconsin Agricultural Group’s proposed complex east of Evansville. The other idea, coming out of Janesville’s City Hall, would relocate the fair to the General Motors property on the south side.
Fair board President John Quinn has heard complaints that Evansville isn’t the central location that many county residents prefer. Meanwhile, the automotive site idles in standby status through the United Auto Workers contract with GM at least until 2015. Besides, Quinn sees the site’s industrial infrastructure as a roadblock to easy redevelopment. Quinn told Duwe he can’t foresee a move in either direction absent more details, and neither site has a spot ready for the fair to relocate.
Third, for the fair to enjoy good attendance and balance its books depends largely on favorable weather. Rain and threats of storms deter fairgoers. The high heat and humidity in Tuesday's forecast aren’t ideal. Stifling conditions also do nothing for the comfort and health of animals on the grounds. Fortunately, forecasters see more reasonable weather with mild air starting Wednesday.
Fourth, attending the fair is a great way to thank a farmer. If you appreciate those who toil 24/7 so you can eat good, nutritious food that’s produced locally instead of being trucked from who knows where, attend the fair. Many kids showing animals and exhibits are being raised on farms and are key to the future of agriculture, which remains crucial to Rock County’s economy. Many farmers also help urban 4-H and FFA kids by selling them animals to show or housing their cows or pigs, goats or sheep, chickens or turkeys. If you chat with a farmer while walking the grounds, don’t hesitate to voice your appreciation.
Finally, the fair is a celebration of what’s good about the next generation of young adults. Sure, you might most enjoy the fair for its tradition of country music, or for those delectable goodies. Through 4-H and FFA, however, Rock County’s kids are learning the values of hard work, responsibility and recordkeeping. They’re reaping lessons in improving production methods and leadership.
Many of these kids will be in the next crop of laborers in barns, fields and agriculture-related businesses. Come out to the fair, then, and celebrate a tradition that took root in 1930 as the first 4-H fair in the U.S. and continues today as our nation’s largest youth fair.
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