By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald
WALES TWP. – The intermingling smells of popcorn, fried dough, cows and horses means one thing — the St. Clair County Youth Fair has returned.
Goodells County Park will play host to the county fair that brings with it 77 years of tradition as well as a new bag of tricks.
Fair Board President Rob Usakowski said the fair will attract more than 80,000 from July 20-25.
Across the week of activities run by the St. Clair County Agricultural Society are animal shows with beef, swine and horses.
With close to 10,000 project entrees last year, Usakowski said the fair doesn’t just include farm animals.
“Competitions range from photography, cake decorating and animals,” he said. “We have one of the larger horse shows in the region.”
This year the fair is bringing back its motocross event that has become a crowd favorite. Crews haul in dirt and sand to construct a track for dirt bike and four-wheeler races.
Toward the end of the week, the events get bigger with demolition derbies, figure-8 races and tractor maneuvering.
Based out of Lansing, the country band called Gunner & The Grizzly Boys will be coming to the fairgrounds to perform during the opening ceremonies on July 20.
“Last year was the first time in years we brought in music,” Usakowski said. “We are trying to bring in a new crowd and music is one of the ways to do that. The teenage girls are going to be happy with the group we chose.”
Animal Oasis will be bringing their petting farm to the fair with a large variety of domestic and rare breeds of animals for visitors to pet and feed.
This is one of the main reasons a fair can be so entertaining for some of the urban attendees.
“You’re going to get hands on with animals,” Usakowski said. “There will be kids in the barn who will let you pet the animals and feed them. It can be a pretty big draw for kids who live in the city.”
Lenox Township resident Ruby Walker has raised poultry for years and plans on participating in 4-H.
The 9-year-old has been showing for the last four years, however, this year will mark her first time as a real 4-Her.
As a Clover Sprout, Walker was too young to compete.
Walker came to her first 4-H fair when she was 2 years old. Although she doesn’t remember it, Walker plans on getting the most out of this year’s festivities.
“Even if I don’t win I plan on having a fun time by competing,” Walker said. “It’s what I love the most.”
Within the first three days of the fair, beef, swine and sheep are judged with the children being awarded that fabled blue ribbon.
After months of preparation on their animals and other projects, the children are rewarded at the live auction sale.
Around 600 animals are sold that night with the majority going to fill people’s freezers. The fair will send the purchased animals to a local slaughterhouse or buyers can bring them back home.
In some cases, 4-H participants have been working with their animals for nine months in anticipation of their first payday.
Rick Ruemenapp, a director on the fair’s board, said 4-H has a way of molding the county’s next generation.
“It’s all about the kids,” he said. “Seeing the smile on some of these kids’ faces or where it is their first year showing and you can see their excitement. That to me is priceless.”
Usakowski expects there to be close to 1,000 kids to participate in the 4-H portions of the fair.
“I think the work effort in 4-H that you see from the set up and the raising of animals produces some really good children,” he said. “It’s nice to see them get rewarded for all the work they put in.”
Addyline Doughty, 13, of Greenwood Township, serves as an ambassador for the 4-H court.
As ambassador she takes part in parades and represents the 4-H in order to educate others about it.
“It’s a new learning experience,” Doughty said. “4-H has benefited me by teaching me how to get out there and to not be scared of people. To try new things and to take responsibly and care for an animal.”
After her mom introduced her to 4-H as a toddler, Doughty has been raising rabbits for nine years as well as sheep and cattle for three years.
Doughty couldn’t be more excited for this year.
“I try to visit the youth fair because I know it was a very good experience for me and it can be for others,” Doughty said. “I’ve even made a few friends through this.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March 28, 2015)