From Old Highway 63, the George County Fair appears to be brightly lit thriller rides, loud music, screams and all the sights a carnival encompasses. However, the heart of the fair happens a few steps away from the noise at the livestock barn and agricultural exhibit hall.
County fairs first originated in the northeastern states in the early 1800s. They were, and still are, a time for farmers to showcase their animals and crops. Unfortunately, some fair-goers never see what happens in the barn and exhibit hall. The local 4-H Livestock Show and Sale of Champions take place on Tuesday and Thursday of fair week each year. The exhibit hall is open nightly 5-9 p.m. Inside the exhibit hall, students of 4-H, along with community members, show foods, crafts, paintings and other items involving hands-on work.
At last week’s annual county fair, 25 buyers showed up to support George County youth by purchasing 4-H animals raised by those youth. The 4-H students were judged in the showmanship class based on age group divisions. Afterward, students showed their animals a second time for the weight class prior to the Sale of Champions. This year’s sale included three steers, two market goats and 18 pigs. This year’s packing houses were Homestead, Cutting Edge and Julie’s Pasture to Plate, formerly known as Steven’s Packing House. Century Bank donated financially to the youth, and the George County Farm Bureau paid entry fees.
The Grand Champion Steer was shown by Camille Lawrence. Rebecca Lawrence showed the Reserve Champion Steer. In the Swine Show Katie Fineburg’s pig won Grand Champion and Anna Grace Fineburg’s animal took the Reserve Champion spot. Anna Grace Fineburg’ animal also won the Grand Champion spot in the Market Wool Sheep Show. In the Commercial Meat Goat Doe Show, Allie McKae Cochran’s animal won Grand Champion and Jude Reus’s animal was named Reserve Champion. Grand Champion in the Market Wether Goat Show went to Jude Reus’ goat with the Reserve Champion title going to Allie McKae Cochran’s goat. Kaden Tolbert’s heifer won Grand Champion in the Commercial Heifer Show. Delaneigh Brochard’s animal was named Reserve Champion. In the Registered Beef Show, Ethan Harrell’s animal took the Grand Champion title, and Caroline Harrell’s animal was named Reserve Champion. In the Commercial Dairy Show, Ty Havens’ cow won Grand Champion and Paisley Havens’ animal was named Reserve Champion. In the Registered Dairy Show, Presley Havens’ animal took the Grand Champion title.
The George County 4-H Program operates under the umbrella of the George County Mississippi State Extension Service. The program began in 1902 in Ohio as a way to connect public school education to country life. Early clubs were called tomato clubs or corn growing clubs. These community clubs were built to introduce new agricultural technology to youth and to help youth learn more about industries in their communities. By 1912 these clubs were called 4-H Clubs and their emblem was a four-leafed clover. Each leaf represents one of the “H” focus points: head, heart, hands and health.
Food was abundant at the fair with carnival workers selling funnel cakes, corn dogs and cotton candy. However, just as the heart of the actual fair was the local youth farm exhibits, the heart of the food service last week was local food. Just inside the gate were booths of local organizations and churches selling burgers, fish, gumbo and more to raise money for their organization projects.
George County’s fair is sponsored each year by the Lucedale Rotary Club with assistance from the George County Board of Supervisors and the local MSU Extension Service.