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‘Fair’ thee well?

While the 4-H Council and Harrison County Extension Board are exploring the possibility of acquiring property that could be used to stage its own fair as well as numerous other programs, the Harrison County Agricultural Society is wondering what such a move would do to its annual county fair.
The Harrison County Fair, which concluded No. 147 earlier this month, is the oldest, continuous fair in the state. And the 4-H program, which is 102 years old in Indiana, has been allowed to stage its fair in conjunction with the ag society’s annual event at no charge.
Next Wednesday evening, Aug. 30 at 6, at Corydon Presbyterian Church, the Extension board and 4-H Council will hold a joint meeting to discuss facilities used by the two. The public will have the opportunity to share their views on pursuing a new location for many 4-H and Extension events.
Brenda Hash, president of the Harrison County 4-H Council, said she has a ‘lengthy’ reply when asked why they are considering moving to a new site because she wants people to understand all of the circumstances. It basically boils down to more participants using less space in a wide variety of programs.
‘Our number of youth and the work of great volunteers just keep growing and making 4-H the awesome program it is for Harrison County,’ Hash said. ‘But, currently we are outgrowing the facilities that the ag society has been gracious enough to let us use for many years.’
As the number of small animals that are brought to the Harrison County Fairgrounds increases, it becomes more difficult to house them during the week, Hash said. When the 4-H Council approached the ag society last fall about using 4-H funds to expand the small animal barn, Hash said they were told the ag society didn’t want the 4-H to use any more of their ground for buildings.
The timing of the fair is another concern of the 4-H Council.
‘Most people do not realize that there are judging events that start up at the Indiana State Fair before the fair officially opens,’ Hash said. ‘These events start during the week of our fair. This means that youth from Harrison County cannot go up and represent Harrison County in the exhibits because they are exhibiting at the county fair.’
And, many of the best projects from the county fair aren’t on display because they’ve had to be taken to Indianapolis to compete at the state fair.
The week the fair is held has created problems for Lanesville students, who now attend school on a balanced calendar and have to decide whether to miss school or participate in events at the county fair.
‘Harrison County 4-H has even had a whole club dissolve in the Lanesville area because of this situation,’ Hash said, adding that holding the county 4-H fair two weeks earlier than its current date would allow more youth to participate without missing school.
While most people associate 4-H with the county fair, there are many programs that take place at other times throughout the year. One such offering is the Shooting Sports program. Hash said 45 youth are enrolled in the program, which currently takes place at Gary and Debbie Frederick’s farm 15 times a year. A new location is needed, she said, because of insurance issues that have arisen.
Hash, who is a 4-H volunteer and a mother of four youth in the program, said she hopes the agricultural society, Extension board and 4-H Council, can work together to find a solution that would better serve the 4-H members. She said she hopes that includes not only looking at what’s needed now but what the program will need in the future.
Steve Haggard, president of the Harrison County Agricultural Society who is a 10-year 4-H member himself, former 4-H leader, parent of four 10-year 4-H members and former Extension advisory board member, said he is aware of some of the concerns of the 4-H Council.
‘We don’t want to see the 4-H leave down there,’ he said, adding that the ag society operates on a $270,000-plus budget to maintain the fairgrounds and put on the county fair. The 4-H program has not been charged any fee for the use of the fairgrounds or the utilities they use during fair week, he said.
Jim Cavins, treasurer for the ag society, echoed Haggard. ‘We think (4-H) is part of the show and a lot of the reason why people come to the fair,’ he said.
The two men said scheduling is a factor in setting the fair date, which has been the end of July/beginning of August the past several years because of the contract with the carnival company.
‘Carnival companies are getting harder to find,’ Cavins said.
Hash said other counties have 4-H fairs without a Midway.
‘I believe that the fairgrounds could be an awesome place to continue to hold our 4-H county fair, and I really do not want to move,’ she said. ‘But I also believe it would be doing our 4-H’ers now and in the future a huge disservice if we as a community do not change to accommodate growth.
‘People have a hard time handling change,’ she said. ‘I understand this, and we changed some things this year at the fairgrounds to better improve our exhibits and the process in which some things were handled … I think as a community we need to strive to ‘Make the Best Better.’ ‘
Hash emphasized that she would prefer for everyone to work together, but added, ‘I really feel we owe it to our youth to invest the time, money and lots of elbow grease to make the changes.’