Amusement rides are ready to roll. Food has been ordered. Four-H projects are complete. The queen has been crowned. And animals are being readied for judging.
More than 100,000 people are expected at this year’s Bartholomew County 4-H Fair, the annual community gathering where the focus is on the farming community, youths and down-home fun.
Friday is opening day for the fair, which runs through July 14 and is packed with events for all ages, including many free activities.
“It’s just a good social time,” said Fair Board President Larry Fisher. “We have some people who come out every night.”
Some enjoy just sitting around the picnic tables and benches under the shade trees, catching up on the latest community happenings. Others attend grandstand events, listen to musical entertainment, take part in contests, check out the 4-H exhibits, enjoy the midway and, of course, support local service organizations and churches by buying lemon shake-ups, homemade ice cream, and chicken, fish, pork and steak dinners.
Mike Schubel of the Evening Kiwanis Club in Columbus said the group will sell about 400 half-chicken dinners every night and 150 chicken breast meals every day at lunch.
“We start planning for the chicken barbecue back in February, making sure we have all of our food sources available,” Schubel said. “And by the end of March, we start lining up volunteers to work.”
Two shifts a night include volunteers who cook, clean, sell tickets and serve the meals.
It’s a lot of work, but Schubel said the volunteers don’t seem to mind, since the funds go for a good cause: supporting youth programs in the community.
Fisher said workers and service organizations have been busy this spring improving the buildings, including installing new aluminum siding.
The historic pagoda structure that once stood at the old fairgrounds on 25th Street and now serves as a ticket booth for grandstand events also has been spruced up, thanks to grants from the Custer Foundation and Nugent Foundation.
Erika Bonnett, Extension educator for 4-H youth development in Bartholomew County, said close to 800 youths participated in 4-H clubs this year, up about 50 from last year.
“I think the increase is probably because of some of the new projects we have, the new clubs and more interest from clubs in the city,” Bonnett said.
New this year are a sports fishing project and an Indiana history project, but some of the more popular projects continue to be photography, aerospace and foods.
“That’s what’s so neat about 4-H,” Bonnett said. “We have more than 80 projects to pick from, so they can always find something they’re interested in. Livestock is only a portion of 4-H. But that’s our roots, and we’re super proud of that.”
For those who love the midway, new and familiar attractions will be at this year’s fair. Burton Brothers Amusements based in Shirley, Ind., will be staging the midway for the third year.
New this year will be a zip line that is 30-feet tall and 145-feet long, according to Benjamin Burton of the amusement company.
“With the popularity of the zip line at the Super Bowl, we wanted to give it a try this year,” Burton said.
Fisher said the fair board has been closely watching the weather and is preparing for temperatures similar to what the area has experienced in the last few weeks. Plenty of cold water will be for sale, and misting stations will be available around the fairgrounds.
The board also is mindful of conditions for the livestock and is adjusting arrival times to the mornings to make it easier for some of the animals, Fisher said.
Fisher said hot weather is typical for the summer fair, but that never stops the fun. They just plan for more water, more ice and a little more time in the shade.
“Heat, rain, sleet, snow. No matter what, we’ll be here,” he said.
If you go
WHAT: Bartholomew County 4-H Fair
WHEN: 5 p.m. Friday through July 14
WHERE: Bartholomew County Fairgrounds, off Indiana 11 between Spear Street and County Road 200S.
PARKING: $3 per vehicle after 5 p.m., except on Kids Day, July 11, starting at noon. Proceeds go to the Fraternal Order of Police and the fair board to maintain the fairgrounds.
The Bartholomew County 4-H Fair Book is included in today’s issue of The Republic.
Look for more on the entertainment schedule at the fair in Thursday’s Zone section of The Republic.
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