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Fall Fair Toolbox

Because of our mild weather in Florida, nearly every season is fair season!  County, regional, and state fairs occur throughout the fall, winter, and spring in our sunshine state. However, most county and regional fairs in the panhandle are in the fall. Fairs are an important component of the project experience. They provide opportunities for youth to demonstrate their project knowledge and skills. Livestock shows, judging contests, and exhibits are three ways youth are encouraged to develop communication and problem-solving skills associated with their project. To help our families prepare for the fair season, we have curated several resources:

Livestock Shows- if you are new to livestock shows, you may feel a little overwhelmed. This article has some very helpful tips on making sure you are prepared- whether you are showing a large animal (such as a steer) or a small animal (such as a rabbit). The article also includes a downloadable packing list, as well as a list of supplies you may want to have on hand for a “show box.” A show box is a container where you store all of your show supplies.

Judging Contests– Juding contests help youth develop critical thinking skills. Fairs typically offer a variety of judging contests- from agriculture, livestock, poultry, horticulture, and even consumer choices. If you want to learn the basics of judging contests, check out this article and video. If you are interested in agriculture or livestock judging, check out this article for a list of free, downloadable resources and local judigng opportunities.  

Exhibits– Fairs are a great way to show off what you have done throughout the 4-H year. From individual project exhibits to club booth exhibits, there is something for everyone. Check out our family guide to fair exhibits to know which types of exhibits are right for you! If you plan to submit exhibits to the North Florida Fair in Tallahassee, be sure to read this article which is a step-by-step guide to prepare your exhibits for that blue ribbon premium!

4-H Days at the Fair– most fairs offer a special day just for 4-H families. On this day, entrance into the fair is usually free for 4-Hers and features several judging contests and events to support 4-H project work. 4-H Day at the North Florida Fair is November 12th. Check out this article with tips and information you need to know before you go to 4-H day.

For more information about fairs in your area, or to help youth in your county make the most of thier local fair, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office. 

Tractor Supply Clover Campaign

It is amazing how far a dollar can go- especially these days!  Now through October 15, you can purchase a paper clover (or several) to help support your local program. Your donation will make a huge difference in the lives of local youth. In Florida, Tractor Supply Clover funds help send youth to camp and leadership events like 4-H Teen Retreat, 4-H Executive Board, iLead, 4-H University, 4-H Day at the Capitol, and 4-H Legislature.  Don’t have a local Tractor Supply in your county? Don’t worry- a portion of all funds collected are distributed to counties that do not have a store so that everyone benefits!

Since 2010, Tractor Supply has partnered with 4‑H to raise more than $14 million through the Paper Clover campaign. The success of these campaigns has impacted over 81,500 youth by providing them with the tools and resources they need to develop leadership skills to reach their full potential. For twelve days each April and October, Tractor Supply customers can purchase a paper clover to help local 4-H programs. One hundred percent of funds raised through the bi-annual Paper Clover campaign directly benefit 4‑H youth, with most funds benefiting local programs.  For more information about 4-H, contact your local UF IFAS Extension office, or visit our website at

Dates for the 2023 Fall Paper Clover Campaigns: Fall: October 4-15, 2023

Fish Florida Sponsors 4-H Sportfishing Camps

4-H youth explored different Florida habitats to learn about species.

Thanks to Fish Florida, 4-H youth across the panhandle are exploring their sparks related to fishing and Florida’s natural resources. Fish Florida supports organizations like 4-H that teach people, especially children, about Florida’s fish and aquatic habitats through donations of fishing equipment, grants, and scholarships. Their mission is to promote public awareness of and encourage the protection of marine fisheries and coastal habitats through non-formal education. Because their mission aligns so well with the mission of Florida 4-H, this partnership has been very successful.

Fish Florida grants are supported through the sales of specialty tags.

Six Florida panhandle counties received equipment and funds to support 4-H fishing clubs and day camps, reaching 43 adult volunteers and nearly 200 youth. Through these programs, 4-H faculty, staff, and volunteers taught young people about different types of fishing equipment, how to rig a rod and reel, how to cast, how to tie different types of fishing knots, how to identify Florida fresh and saltwater fish, how to fish ethically (following Florida Fish and Wildlife regulations), water and boating safety, and more.

One 4-H youth shared, “I always enjoyed going fishing before, but now I understand what types of equipment and bait I need to use to catch the type of fish I like to catch. This program has also helped me understand why we have certain regulations to protect Florida habitats.”

Youth participating in the 4-H sportfishing program had the opportunity to visit a variety of Florida habitats to learn about different fish, including salt water, brackish water, and freshwater. They also met with professionals in the fishing and wildlife industries to learn about potential careers related to the fishing industry, as well as conserving Florida’s unique natural habitats. This program would not have been possible without the support from Fish Florida, which is funded through the sales of the Florida Sailfish specialty license plate.


4-H programs in Florida’s panhandle provide several ways for youth to explore their interests related to fishing and the outdoors:

  • Clubs- Youth can participate in 4-H clubs that are focused on fishing, natural resources, and the outdoors (shooting sports, ATV safety, camping). Clubs are the foundation of 4-H. A 4-H club is a group of five or more youngsters guided by one or more adults. A club can be any size–from a small group of kids from the same neighborhood to a large group of youth from within the county. Clubs typically meet at least once a month to participate in activities to learn more about a topic. These activities might include games, field trips, guest speakers, and contests. To learn more about what a 4-H club is, visit our website. 
  • Day Camps– Many counties offer day camps focused on fishing and the outdoors. These are typically held during the summer months, or on non-school days. Day camps are a great way for youth who are new to 4-H to get a feel for what 4-H offers.
  • Residential Camps4-H Camp Timpoochee in Niceville, FL offers residential camps to help youth explore Florida’s environments. This camp is the oldest 4-H camp in Florida and is located on the Choctwhathatchee Bay.
  • School Programs– Counties offer a variety of programs through the schools to support non-formal learning. One of these programs is the Florida Youth Naturalists. The Florida Youth Naturalists program guides youth through an exploration of Florida’s uplands, wetlands, and coastal ecosystems and was inspired by the Master Naturalist Program, which is targeted toward adults.
  • Contests– Youth can also participate in contests related to the fields of conservation and ecology such as the 4-H Wildlife Ecology Contest at the North Florida Fair. Activities and study guides to prepare for 4-H Wildlife Ecology can be found online. The deadline to register for the 4-H Wildlife Ecology Contest is October 13. Another contest related to outdoor education is the 4-H Forest Ecology Contest. A clinic to prepare for the State 4-H Forest Ecology Contest will be held on October 14th, and the deadline to register for the clinic is September 23 in 4HOnline.

Check out our 4-H Sportfishing Project Page to learn more about our programs related to fishing. To learn more about Fish Florida, or how you can support them through the Sailfish License Plate program, visit their website. To learn more about opportunities for you to share your passion for fishing with the next generation, or to get your child involved, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office. 

4-H University: Learn, Lead, Serve

This week, 4-Hers from across Florida came together for an event known as 4-H University.  This event was formerly known as 4-H Congress, and 4-H Shortcourse (back in the 40’s and 50’s). It is an opportunity for high school youth to showcase project knowledge, practice leadership skills, participate in our state officer election process, and engage in service projects and workshops to explore their sparks and potential careers. This blog post is written from the perspective of a parent of a first-time youth participant.

Day 1: The Florida 4-H Foundation provided a charter bus to transport panhandle youth to and from Gainesville. But it wasn’t just any bus- it was a customized Florida Gator bus!  While I personally am not a Gator Fan, it was impressive and made our young people feel special. Having a charter bus also alleviated some of the stress (and expense) on parents, 4-H agents, and volunteers and made compliance with our youth protection policy much easier!

Once the youth arrived, they checked into their dorms, unpacked, and selected their workshops for the week. Workshops are structured to help youth explore their passions and interests, and learn about potential careers connected to their sparks. Workshops are hosted by UF faculty across several different departments- animal science, entomology, food sciences, engineering, and more!

Some youth also competed in state contests such as public speaking, demonstrations, or illustrated talks. Entries for the state photographic and graphic design contests were on display. Youth also listened to speeches prepared by candidates running for office for the Florida 4-H Executive Board. This year we had a record number of candidates- 19 for five positions (president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and reporter). The opening event was held at a recreational center where youth had the opportunity to skate, ride go-carts, rock climb, and get to know each other.

Day 2: Youth participated in service projects and workshops.

Dinner on day 2 was enjoyed at “The Swamp,” also known as the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. This was sponsored by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

After dinner, the state Share the Fun talent contest took place and was live-streamed on social media. This was followed by a dance before returning to the dorms.

Day 3: Youth participated in more workshops, and voting delegates from each county participated in a State Executive Board Meeting and cast their votes for state officers. That evening, awards for scholarships and national trips were presented during a banquet, and the new officers were inducted. This celebration was followed by a dance.

Day 4: The event was concluded with an Awards Breakfast and parade of champions, where all winners from all state events that occurred throughout the year were acknowledged. After breakfast, there was a Florida 4-H Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, and youth loaded back up on the bus to head home!

4-H University usually occurs the last week of July. For more information, check out our website or contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office.

4-H County and District Events Showcase Life Skills

One of the tenants of the 4-H program is the opportunity for youth to showcase what they have learned. Sometimes this occurs during the county fair or a contest. But youth also have the opportunity to showcase their knowledge and skills during county and district events. This competitive opportunity is the culminating experience of a 4-H project. County and District events are typically held in the spring and qualify for state demonstrations, illustrated talks, public speaking, and share the fun (talent) acts.  While participation is optional, this program was designed to give youth a safe space to practice life and leadership skills and receive recognition for all their hard work during the 4-H year. Together, this helps build youths’ self-confidence and poise. If you are new to 4-H, or not familiar with county and district events, this article will provide an overview, as well as some resources to help prepare!

What are County/District Events?

County and District events are an opportunity for youth to showcase what they have learned about their project and practice communication skills. Of all the life skills we teach in 4-H, communication is probably one of the top skills that can benefit youth regardless of what career path they choose. During this event, youth have the opportunity to showcase their skills and knowledge through a variety of contests which include: prepared public speaking, demonstrations (show and tell presentations), illustrated talks (speeches with visual aids), graphic design, photography, and talent show.

What Skills Do Youth Learn Through This Program? 

County and District events are an opportunity for youth to learn how to communicate with others. It also helps them work towards a standard. Judges provide positive feedback about their presentation and suggestions for improvement. This helps youth build poise and confidence when speaking in front of groups. Youth who receive a red or blue quality ribbon at County Events have the opportunity to proceed to District events and compete with youth from surrounding counties. Agents and volunteers can work with the youth between competitions to polish their presentations, but the overall topic/theme should remain the same. Senior youth (ages 14-18) who receive a red or blue quality ribbon at District events can proceed to the state competition which takes place during 4-H University.

Why Should My Child Get Involved?

County and District 4-H Events provide a safe space for youth to learn and provide a positive competition experience. While not everyone gets a trophy, youth compete against themselves- that means they are judged against a standard and earn a ribbon based on the standard score. They also receive constructive feedback on how to improve.

What Resources Are Available to Help My Club/Child?

Most county extension programs offer a workshop to help youth prepare their presentations. You can find more information in our 4-H Events and Activities Handbook. We also have previous blog posts with links to the criteria, judging sheets, and training videos. If you are interested in more opportunities like this for your child, OR if you are willing to serve as a judge for competitive events, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.