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Planning a Farm Youth Program for a Fair, Festival or Event
by Jerry Bullock, Mid South Fair, Memphis, TN

The Farm Youth Program is made up of organizations such as 4-H, FFA (Future Farmers of America), FCCLA (Family Career & Community Leaders of America), Skills U.S.A. VICA (Vocational Industrial Clubs of America), HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America), and any agricultural project involving young people.

4-H Programs are worked through the county extension offices and the University Extension Service. Here at the Mid-South Fair, we work cooperatively with Extension in Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. This helps provide leadership and participation to more than a thousand young people.

Some 4-H events that a young person might enter and be judged prior to fair opening are 4-H Poster Art, 4-H Photography, and 4-H Entomology. The posters and photography entries are judged prior to opening of the fair and the winners are displayed all ten days of the fair.

Entomology boxes are brought in, judged, and all boxes are displayed all ten days of the fair. Poster Art pays first through third places in a junior and senior category, photography pays first through fi fth places, and Entomology is placed blue, red, or white with money being paid on the Danish system for each entry.

Events that take place on 4-H Day (the first Saturday of the fair), involve individual and team participation competition. Examples are Hippology, Foods & Nutrition Judging, Home Furnishings, Seed Identification, Poultry Judging, Livestock Judging, Fashion Revue, Bicycle Rodeo, BB Shooting, Poultry Barbecue Contest, Forestry Judging, Food Bowl Quiz, Public Speaking, Consumer Judging, Career Pursuit, Linnaean Games, and Wildlife Evaluation.

Individual participation pays first through third places and judging events pay first through fifth place. In each judging event, the high scoring individual receives a ribbon, plaque, and an additional monetary award. Judging events have a junior and senior category.

Chairmanship of the different events is rotated between the states. By rotating, the burden of securing judges, tabulating scores, etc., doesn't become a burden on any one state.

When a contest no longer draws good participation, the 4-H Committee evaluates and will either update the event or eliminate and replace the event with another. It is the intent of this committee to have programs that focus on the current interest of 4-H'ers.

Skills U.S.A. VICA, HOSA, FCCLA, and FFA are coordinated with the State Departments of Vocational Education and the schools within the five states previously mentioned. Again, I work with them to implement and conduct those events that will provide a learning experience.

Skills U.S.A. VICA has two events at the Mid-South Fair. They are Cosmetology and Promotional Bulletin Board. Both contests are held on the first day of the Mid-South Fair and are for Tennessee contestants only. This was offered to all states, but travel constraints prohibited their participation. Each entry in Cosmetology (6) receives a ribbon and some money. Promotional Bulletin Board contestants (5) receive money, ribbon, and their entry stays on display all during the fair.

HOSA is a demonstration only at the Mid-South Fair. If a school wishes to bring their students to the fair to take blood pressure, etc., it is the responsibility of the Farm Youth Department to provide a place and publish time for visitors to have this service done. We have no competitive events at this time.

To begin any vocational program, you first determine which events you will offer and decide the rules and regulations for entering and conducting the event. It is the responsibility of the Farm Youth Department to secure sponsorship for awards and secure judges for the events.

FCCLA has three competitive events for students in our five state area. Those events are Fashion Construction, Quick Bread, and Poster/Oral. From my experience, there seems to be more change in this organization than in others. When participation begins to dwindle, I go to the vocational people, and together we redirect the focus by updating events to meet today's opportunity, or change to a new program completely.

FCCLA contests are conducted by State Advisors and they select their own judges. Awards are paid first through third in junior and senior for Quick Bread, first through third in four categories for Poster/Oral, and Fashion Construction is paid on the Danish system with each contestant being placed blue, red, or white. Special rosettes and award money is paid the top entry in each of four categories.

FFA has eight competitive events at the Mid-South Fair. They are Dairy Judging, Livestock Judging, Poultry Judging, Soil Judging, Welding, Floriculture, Nursery/Landscape, and FFA Prepared Public Speaking. Each of the fi ve states send their state winner to compete for the Mid-South Fair title. Because of the time of our fair dates, this is the last practice before going on to National FFA Convention.

Each contest is managed with state vocational staff, teachers, and qualifi ed judges with expertise in certain fi elds (e.g. Welding and Soil Judging). Awards are given to each team competing with special awards given for high scoring individual. Prepared public speaking contestants are each given monetary awards and plaques.

In 2004, there was some conversation about discontinuing the youth horticulture program at the Mid-South Fair. I felt so strongly that we should provide more opportunities and not take away, I asked for and was given permission to establish a "Youth Agriculture/Horticulture" program for the Mid-South Fair. Local Extension personnel and teachers were contacted to plan such an event. Rules and regulations were written and mailed to surrounding states. The response was most favorable. This is open to all youth and not just those involved with 4-H, FFA, etc.

There are four lots named for this competition: Lot-1 Horticulture, Lot-2 Gardening, Lot-3 Field Crops, and Lot-4 Shop Work. Awards are paid on the Danish system with a "Best of Show" named in each Lot. This earns an extra cash award and a rosette.

Events and contests for youth are always exciting. They are easily begun and professional assistance is readily available. If the event you select doesn't grow and involve youth as rapidly as you want, simply change to another.

There are so many different opportunities you can use that an average fair couldn't possibly offer each event.


 

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