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It’s Fair Season – a Family Guide to Fair Exhibits

It’s that time of year again – Fair Season!  

I can just smell the delicious scents of midway foods and see and hear the lights and squeals on carnival rides?  But to most 4-H families, fairs go way beyond food and rides.  During fair season, youth throughout the state dress up with pride in their 4-H green attire and prepare for what’s to come…fair exhibits!

Fair exhibits can range from artwork to plants to animals and finally, the epic fair booths. The most important thing for youth and adult exhibitors is knowing:

1. What counties are allowed to participate?

2. What and how many categories you may enter?

3. Exhibit requirements.

Here, we’ll cover preparing for fair booths and animal exhibits but you can find multiple links below for the state and local fairs with more information on exhibit entries and requirements.


Fair booths are the highlight of displays at the fair

Organizations, like 4-H, use fair booths to visually communicate what we offer.  Fair booths can be a great way to create a sense of Belonging in your club by having all members feel like they’re part of the 4-H Family!  You want your communication to be effective, so prepare a checklist:

  1. Research the fair you want to enter – determine the deadline and registration requirements.
  2. Will you earn a booth premium?  If so, figure out how much your club is willing to spend on supplies based on the premium could receive.
  3. Determine the size of your booth. Going out of booth boundaries can be a point deficit on the scorecard.
  4. Pick your booth theme and layout.
  5. Get commitments from members and parents to help with preparation, setup and breakdown.  Delegate tasks so everyone feels like they have contributed.

Check out Exhibits and Displays” below for a full checklist and more information!


4-H’er talking to the judge of the Rabbit Show at Walton County Fair.

4-H Animal Exhibits

Rabbit, chicken, cattle, swine and goat exhibits are staples of fair week.  Animal exhibits give many people the opportunity to see, learn about and interact with animals they don’t normally come across.  For our 4-H youth, livestock exhibits and shows give youth the ability to gain Mastery through 4-H Project Learning. These highly experiential experiences teach youth a multitude of life skills.  To get your animals fair ready:

  1. Research the fair’s deadlines and registration. Be sure to check deadlines for acquiring ownership and birth-dates of your animals.
  2. Check the vaccination and health certificate requirements for your animal and secure an appointment with a veterinarian to have this completed.
  3. Be on time or early to check-in. Sometimes, there is only one Agriculture Inspector and a long line of exhibitors. Some animals are required to do on-site blood testing, so be prepared with your paperwork and be patient.
  4. Determine if the fair provides the food and bedding and if exhibitors are required to care for their animals daily. This is not only important for the nutritional well-being of your animal but also for their emotional well-being.

Helpful Links:

Florida Panhandle Fair Opportunities:

If you’re a fair veteran, 4-H alumni, or just someone interested in benefiting the youth of your community, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office to find out how you can become a 4-H Volunteer and share your expertise!

4-H in October

October is an exciting month for 4-H – we have some great things happening. First, it includes National 4 H Week, October 1-7. This year during National 4-H Week, The Northwest district is proud to celebrate the #TrueLeaders that make our community great. Every child deserves to be recognized for the great things they are doing. Help us celebrate #TrueLeaders during National 4-H Week by shouting out your favorite 4-H’er. #TrueLeaders lead by example, empowering their peers and inspiring communities. 4-H’ers, show your pride this National 4-H Week! Share photos of how youth are stepping up as #TrueLeaders in your county.

As part of National 4-H Week, 4-H’ers participate in 4 H National Youth Science Day (NYSD), the world’s largest youth-led science experiment. This year’s 4 H NYSD event will take place on October 4.

Our local Tractor Supply Company will be supporting 4-H clubs October 4-15 with their Paper Clover Campaign, this is a national in-store fundraiser that benefits state and local 4-H programs. Tractor Supply invites friends and family to support 4-H by donating $1 at store checkouts for scholarships that send local kids to 4-H camp and other 4-H leadership experiences.

October also represent a time when our local tailgating youth will advance to the state finals. The northwest district will have 8 youth advancing to the state competition October 14.

October also means that it is fair time! You will be able to view our 2017 4-H youth exhibits across the Panhandle at local fairs and rodeos!

Central Panhandle Fair – October 2 -7
Art in the Garden Festival at the UF IFAS Research Center in Quincy- October 7th
Bonifay Rodeo – October 5-7
Walton County Fair – October 9-14
Panhandle Youth Expo– October 11th-14th
Pensacola Interstate Fair – October 19-24
North Florida Fair – November 2-12

Local 4-H youth will exhibit their artwork, plants and animals that they have been caring for this past year. Youth exhibits and plants are judged. Youth receive ribbon awards using the Danish judging system at county and regional fairs. This means that exhibits are judged against a “standard” rather than against other exhibits. For example, a painting that has been created by a 4-H’er is not compared to other paintings. Rather, it is judged according to the criteria of standards for paintings. A blue ribbon means that the exhibit meets high standards and good quality work is shown.

October and November are busy months in 4-H. To find out more information about other 4-H programs like this or volunteer your time to work with youth, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit

Is a Rabbit Right for your Family?

Rabbits are a popular small animal project- but is it a good fit for your family?

With spring in the air, you may be interested in getting a real live bunny.  There are a few things to consider before bringing a bunny into your family:

  1. First consider what purpose you have for the rabbit.  Do you want a pet, a rabbit to show, a rabbit to breed, or one for meat?  Depending on how you answer the question will depend on what breed you choose.  There are many options.  The American Rabbit Breeders Association recognizes around 47 different breeds.
  2. Rabbits come in various sizes, shapes, fur types, and colors.  Rabbit range from 2 to 20 pounds.  There are several fur types to consider with normal fur being most common to unique fur that require special consideration.  Satin fur is known for its luster and sheen.  Angora fur is distinctive because of its length and its woolen consistency.  Rex fur is a dense fur type, noted for its velvet softness and thickness.
  3. There are five shapes of rabbits: commercial, compact, full arch, semi-arch, and cylindrical.  The most common is the commercial shape.  This type is found most often in meat rabbits.   The compact is similar to the commercial but has a shorter, more compact body.  A rabbit that has a full arch shape is taller than they are wide and have longer limbs.  Semi-arch breeds are not as common, are pear-shaped.  The cylindrical shape is only found in only one bread, are long and slender.
  4. Rabbits have an array of color.  Some breeds are only recognized in one color and other breeds are recognized in multiple colors.  It would be helpful for you to spend time reading about the different breeds as well as spending time with breeders or others who have rabbits.  Make sure you look for healthy and lively rabbits who have glossy coats, clear, bright eyes, and clean teeth and ears.
  5. Rabbits are fun to keep buy need lots of care and daily exercise.   They need a roomy cage to in live. Do not use a cage with a wire bottom as the wire hurts their paws.  Cages should be washed out once a week with warm, soapy water and rinsed with clean water.  Rabbits are like us, they don’t like living in dirty cages.  Remove wet bedding and droppings every day.  Keep unscented wood shavings in the bottom of the cage.  They should have fresh water and hay available at all time.  Food should be put in heavy bowls so that they cannot tip them over and fed two small meals a day.  Wash their water bottle and food bowls every day.
  6. Rabbits can be a lot of fun as they are friendly and love to be stroked.  You must be a good pet owner and learn to look after your rabbits properly, they may live for up to 10 -12 years.  Caring for a rabbit will help you learn how to be responsible for a living animal and how to treat animals properly.

Check with your local 4-H office to see if there is a rabbit club for you to join.  You may choose to join the club to become more knowledgeable about rabbits before you become an owner.  You then would be able to make informed decision about the perfect breed for you and your family.  If you have a passion for rabbits, consider becoming a 4-H rabbit project leader to inspire the next generation of rabbit owners and breeders.  Contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit for more information.

4-H Rabbit Project Page

Online 4-H Rabbit Project Book

North Florida Fair Rabbit Show


Preparing for a Livestock Show

hereford show calfFor 4-H members and spectators alike, livestock shows are one of the most anticipated parts of a fair. Preparing your animal for a show begins months in advance. Great care is needed in feeding your animal, practicing showmanship, and making sure your animal is healthy. After all the time and effort that goes into raising your animal, you want to make sure that you have everything you need once you arrive at the fairgrounds.

Angel Granger, the 4-H Agent in Jackson County (also a former livestock club leader and 4-Her) suggests investing in a show box or rubber tote to keep all of your show supplies together.

Packing List for Large Animal Shows:

  1. Grooming tools- scotch comb, brush, shampoo, blower, clippers, scissors
  2. Feed supplies- feed, hay, buckets, feed tubs (rubber tubs work well)
  3. General supplies- water hose, spray nozzle, rubber boots, extension cord, extra rope, pitch fork, square point shovel, rake, and wheel barrow. Depending on the time of year, a fan is also a good idea (the temperature tends to change quickly in the fall and spring and can be unpredictable). Also pack a sign or poster about your animal (breed, age, name, sponsor, etc).
  4. General animal first-aid kit. Antibiotic cream/salve, aspirin boluses and balling gun, blood stop powder, and bleach. It is a good idea to disinfect the sand before you place your animal on the ring. A simple bleach mixture of 1 part bleach to 4 parts water, in a spray bottle will do.
  5. Show equipment. Show stick, show halter/lead, tie out halter and lead ropes.

Packing List for Small Animal Shows:

  1. Grooming tools (brush, comb, nail file, nail clippers, grooming apron or old clothes)
  2. Feed supplies- feed, feed containers, water bottle
  3. General supplies- bucket, rags, string or tie wire, sign for your animal (name, breed, age, sponsor, etc)
  4. General animal first aid kit.
  5. Show equipment- most dog shows require a leash.

Supplies needed for every show regardless of the species you are showing:

  1. Show clothes. There is no uniform for 4-H, but you will want to dress neatly and modestly. A button down shirt and dark pants are appropriate. A neck tie or 4-H bolero tie is a nice touch. Make sure your hair is neatly styled and pulled back away from your face. You may also want to bring some safety pins for your exhibitor tag.
  2. Human first aid kit- you can purchase one for less than $10.00, or put one together yourself (band aids, antibiotic ointment, pain reliever).
  3. Paperwork: A copy of the registration form you mailed/submitted, your animal’s health papers, your lease document (if applicable), and your ORIGINAL breed registry papers. Photocopies will not be accepted at check-in. It is a great idea to put these papers in a three-ring binder inside sheet protectors.
  4. Your knowledge and good sportsmanship! Be familiar with your animal so that you are prepared to answer any questions the judge may ask. Look over your feed record and record book. Remember to both win and lose gracefully.

Be sure to label your items with your name. Consider laminating your packing list and keeping it in your show box with a dry-erase marker. That way, you can check the items off as you load them into your box or trailer. Being prepared will help you be less nervous and make your experience much more enjoyable. See you at the fair!

Preparing Exhibits for the North Florida Fair

NFFFairs are often the highlight of the 4-H year. From a youth development perspective, fairs provide an opportunity for 4-H members to demonstrate new knowledge, abilities, skills and attitudes. When youth, parents and volunteers work together, fairs are a great way for youth to learn and also be recognized for their efforts. Being properly prepared is key to having a great fair experience.

Youth Responsibilities- Establish a realistic timeline to work on your exhibits. Be sure to read the rules and regulations outlined in the 4-H section of the fair book. Pay close attention to deadlines and specific requirements for each project. Make sure that your exhibit is your own work. Exhibits should be in good condition, clean, and labeled with your name, county, and club. Judging score sheets for individual projects can help guide you as you prepare your exhibit.

Parent Responsibilities- Parents can help 4-H members obtain the materials and resources needed to complete 4-H projects, but should never do the project for the youth. Encourage your child to set realistic timelines and goals so that they do not miss entry deadlines. Help them complete their entry form. Many counties offer workshops or clinics in the weeks leading up to fair to help members prepare- take advantage of these sessions!

Volunteer Responsibilities- Share information about fair exhibit categories and deadlines with your 4-H parents. Project leaders are a great resource to help members decide what to exhibit about their project. It could be something they made, or it could be a poster or tabletop display about what they have learned. If possible, assign an older, more experienced member to mentor new members as they prepare.

Consider having a mock judging of exhibits so that any last minute adjustments can be made. Invite parents to attend along with the members and use this meeting as an opportunity to provide feedback and recognition to individual members and to promote club unity and pride.

4-H members are encouraged to try something more challenging each year and to practice good sportsmanship. Exhibiting is designed to be an enjoyable educational experience not just a contest. If you would like to help 4-Hers in your county get ready for the fair, or serve as a judge for your fair, contact your local county Extension Office.