Exhibiting Excellence at a County Fair

Show livestock like a pro with these tips for selecting, preparing, and presenting animals at the county fair.

| May/June 2020

prizewinning-cow 
Photo by Getty Images/Gannet77

Few events are as uniquely summertime as a county fair. With their emphasis on livestock and the young people who’ve spent a large portion of the season preparing for them, county fairs have been an end-of-summer tradition in the United States for well over 100 years.

The history of the fair likely dates back to Roman days, as a series of religious holidays complete with games, competitions, and festivities. During the Middle Ages, fairs evolved into events more resembling markets, and were often combined with feasts and celebrations dedicated to particular saints — a combination that endured for centuries. As time passed, fairs turned from their religious roots toward a focus on agriculture and education. One of the first agricultural fairs in the U.S. was held in Massachusetts in the early 1800s, and consisted entirely of a sheep exhibition.

potatoes
Photo by Alicia Boor



From those roots, animal exhibition grew in the U.S., and rural communities across the country began hosting their own agricultural fairs. In 1841, the first state fair was organized in Syracuse, New York. From a two-day event, the New York State Fair has grown into a two-week event — still held at the end of summer — and is one of the most popular events in the country.

Today, the backbone of any agricultural fair, whether at the county, state, or national level, is the exhibition and showing of livestock. County fairs are generally put on by the agricultural extension service agents based in that county, in cooperation with a county fair board. Most fairs focus mainly on youth participation, but many have adult classes as well. If you and your family are gearing up for your first fair season, here are some tips to get you started.



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