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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!

A 4-H Love Story Comes Full Circle


Brad and Stacey at the 1995 National 4-H Meats Judging Contest

Brad and Stacey at the 1995 National 4-H Meats Judging Contest

Stacey (Ditty) Warden joined the Lovedale 4-H Club at the age of ten as a shy girl not knowing just how drastically 4-H would impact her life. She joined upon the recommendation of her aunt, who had just started working at the Extension Office as the new 4-H Secretary. One of Stacey’s first projects was poultry judging. A few years later, she met her future husband, Brad Warden, while attending the 4-H Ham and Hog workshop in Gainesville. Stacey and Brad showed cattle and participated on the 4-H Livestock, Poultry and Meats Judging teams at the county, state and national levels. They attribute their success to supportive parents as well as their former 4-H Agent, Shelia Andreason, who now works for Alabama 4-H.  Shelia remembers their determination and dedication, “4-H was a safe place for kids to learn how to compete in a competitive world.  Brad and Stacey easily mastered the vocabulary, points to evaluate, and steps to give a logical set of oral reasons and were able to transition from one judging topic to the next.  I am very proud to see them coaching judging teams for Jackson County as alumni of the program 20 years later!”

Brad and Stacey also transitioned from childhood friends to teenage sweethearts.  They married soon after high school graduation and have been married 18 years.  They have two children, Hayden and Eden. Today, their son Hayden shows steers and participates in poultry, livestock, and meats judging. Eden is not yet old enough to join 4-H, but is a ‘future 4-Her in training.”

Last year, Brad and Stacey decided to start a 4-H club so that other youth (including their own) could benefit from 4-H the same way they did. “Kids need an outlet to learn about agriculture and livestock and we wanted to continue the strong tradition of livestock judging in Jackson County.” Their passion for 4-H is contagious. Their club is one of the fastest growing clubs in the county, with nearly 50 members. “It was a real eye opener to see how many youth and parents were attracted to learning about livestock. Many of them had never owned an animal or participated in a judging contest before joining 4-H. We were amazed at the response we got,” said Stacey.

One of the reasons that this club is so popular is because Brad and Stacey are passionate advocates for 4-H. They are quick to share why learning about agriculture is still relevant today, despite a decrease in the number of “farm kids.” Stacey shares, “Jackson County is an agricultural county. Kids need to know about agriculture in order to grow up to be informed consumers, stewards, and citizens. Poultry judging is a great way for kids to get started in agriculture. It teaches them about quality control, communication, and reasoning skills. The skills they learn are very practical and relate to everyday life. 4-H is a true testament to what the programs teach the youth.  Once parents see what the kids are learning, they want their kids involved.”

“I tell parents all the time that I would not be the person I am today if I had not joined 4-H. I was a poor farm girl that had never been outside of Jackson County. 4-H helped me learn how to speak in front of others, build confidence, and gave me so many opportunities I would not have had otherwise. This is what is missing in other programs, which tend to just focus on fun activities. In 4-H, activities are fun, but they also help youth develop valuable life skills that will carry them through school and their future career. 4-H focuses on the big picture of positive youth development, and kids are hungry for that kind of learning because they can’t get it anywhere else.”

Brad and Stacey with members of their livestock judging team in 2015.

Brad and Stacey with members of their livestock judging team in 2015.

Brad and Stacey attribute the success of their club not only because of the content they teach, but also to a dedicated group of 4-H parents who are willing to pitch in and help out whenever needed. 4-H parents Stephen and Casey Roach shared, “We are so thankful that we have the opportunity to be a part of a 4-H club where the leaders get more excited about the kids’ accomplishments than the kids do! Brad and Stacey cheer on all the 4-H members and encourage them to do their best. They’ve done such a tremendous job that the kids are placing in competitions, gaining confidence, and learning valuable information about livestock. We couldn’t be happier or more appreciative of all that Brad and Stacey do for the Jackson County 4-H Livestock Club.”

There are no guarantees that you will meet your future spouse in 4-H, but you will reap benefits by sharing your passion and expertise as a 4-H volunteer!  4-H alumni like Brad and Stacey make ideal volunteers.  Stacey advises “Jump right in- don’t hesitate! We were not sure about it at first, but with support from our 4-H Agent, other parents and the community, things have fallen into place. It is not nearly as intimidating as we thought it would be.” To find out how you can leverage your skills and experience as a 4-H volunteer, contact your local Extension Office or visit

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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!