Ag exhibitors part ways with Callaway County fair

A tiny rancher shows off her calf during the Bucket Calf Show at the 2012 Kingdom of Callaway County Fair. This year, the 4-H and FFA home arts and livestock shows will be part of the first Callaway Youth Expo July 10-13.

A tiny rancher shows off her calf during the Bucket Calf Show at the 2012 Kingdom of Callaway County Fair. This year, the 4-H and FFA home arts and livestock shows will be part of the first Callaway Youth Expo July 10-13.

The desire for an increased focus on youth has led to a dramatic change in the schedule for the 2013 Kingdom of Callaway County Fair.

Rather than exhibiting home arts and livestock at the county fair, this year 4-H and FFA students will be taking part in the first Callaway Youth Expo at the fairgrounds.

“We’re starting a new, totally youth-focused thing,” said Tommy Lee, a former fair board member who has helped coordinate the livestock shows at the county fair for years.

A letter prepared by Callaway Youth Expo Committee President Carson Humphreys for potential sponsors explains that: “In the weeks following the Callaway County Fair this past summer, a group of concerned individuals felt that more could be done to showcase all youth of Callaway County. After numerous conversations and meetings with 4-H and FFA leaders and members and the current fair board, all parties decided it was time for a change.”

The letter goes on to explain that by separating out the youth exhibition events, “our hope is that we can create an event that is geared toward teaching and encouraging the youth of Callaway County.”

President Billy Spencer said the Kingdom of Callaway County Fair Board is behind whatever the 4-H and FFA programs want to do.

“We’d welcome them back, but whatever they need, we’ll support them,” Spencer said. “They said a lot of fairs are doing this now, and they wanted to try it, see what it’s like this year.”

Pam Heimericks, youth program associate for the Callaway County 4-H, said there were a couple of things that led to the decision.

“There were discussions between the fair board and concerned parents about being able to showcase the youth a little bit more,” Heimericks said, echoing the letter. “It was kind of a mutual decision to try separating out a little more. We’re not trying to take away anything from the fair.”

One of the biggest opportunities she said the Callaway Youth Expo Committee is excited about is the chance to bring in more area organizations rather than focusing only on agriculture.

“We wanted to showcase other youth groups as well; that means Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, church youth groups,” Heimericks said. “For instance, we have all these church groups that go on mission trips, and usually they only get to do a presentation on what they did for their church. This gives them a chance to show everyone what they’ve done.”

A tentative schedule for the July 10-13 Expo includes all of the traditional fair exhibitions — home arts displays, the ham show and sales and livestock shows and sales of cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, poultry and horses. Also included is the children’s small animal show that was introduced during the county fair last year.

Heimericks said during a committee meeting Thursday night that at least one Callaway Cub Scout pack had agreed to participate, and other members said they are hoping other groups will step forward to get involved as well.

“We want to emphasize that this is not just 4-H, not FFA, it’s all youth in Callaway County,” committee member Kevin Minish said.

In addition to youth participants, event organizers also are seeking sponsorship for the Expo.

“Our goal is to make the Callaway Youth Expo an affordable, family friendly environment,” reads Humphreys’ letter, which was approved by the committee during Thursday night’s meeting. “We don’t plan to charge gate fees/admission, but we still have insurance, utilities and other expenses associated with hosting this new event.”

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