This year’s event, set for January 22-28, will have familiar favorites and a new event.
by CATHERINE CERVONE
photo by TOM HAGERTY (2020)
The Polk County Youth Fair is quickly approaching, and it’s sure to be bigger and better than ever this year.
The 2022 event is set to run from January 22-28 at its home at the Agriculture Complex in Bartow. This year’s fair features a new event and some events brought back from cuts last year. This year marks the 75th year the fair has been celebrated, and it’s sure to be full of special memories.
The fair continues to grow each year and holds a relatively rare title as one of the few remaining fairs to focus on youth without supplementing with entertainment or a midway and without charging an admissions fee. More than 1,100 entries in the livestock division will be competing for titles and auctions, in addition to entries in horticulture, family and consumer sciences, and special activities divisions.
Events range from the popular market hog auctions to showings of breeding goats, archery, vegetables, and the chili cook-off. Due to health and safety restrictions, last year’s rabbit and poultry showings, as well as the dog show, were cut. This year, the rabbit and poultry showings are back in play, along with a newcomer to the field: the market lamb show.
Paul Webb, president of the Youth Fair board, says they strive to adjust the fair to account for the needs of the youth. When an interest was presented for a market lamb show, something that hadn’t been in the fair in about 30 years, they were quick to oblige.
“We always try to bring in things that we feel are marketable and helpful for the kids,” Webb says. There are currently 19 entries in the market lamb show.
Webb says the board is thrilled to be doing the fair again this year, saying they encountered many hard decisions when cutting and modifying events for the 2021 fair. (The 2020 fair occurred before the pandemic).
“We’re all excited about bringing everything back,” he said, mentioning that he’s thrilled with the progress made to bring new and improved changes to the fair.
One of those ideas from last year that will be making a recurrence is the hybrid market hog auction. The auction will happen in person, providing well-deserved funds to the youth who have spent time raising the hogs, but will also happen online through a seller platform, allowing people from all over to participate and support. Webb recollects that they had a purchaser of a few hogs from several states away last year.
The local television station PGTV will be live broadcasting the fair throughout the week again this year, too. This is a great option for those at greater health and safety risk, those looking to take extra precautions, community members who don’t want to add to the crowds at the complex, or supporting family and friends from far away. Once the schedule is finalized with the station, livestream links will be available on the Polk County Youth Fair website as well as on their Facebook page. Webb encourages viewers to watch online to help lessen the crowds.
Extra cleaning routines were implemented last year and will be continuing this year. For example, the hog show was divided into divisions, which will still be the case this year, and the ring was cleaned and cleared between divisions. While the extra cleaning precautions will be welcomed, the groups also enjoyed the extra time to set up between divisions, as it helped clear the crowd and provide a short break for the organizers.
One change from last year that will not be sticking around is the location change for the whip-popping event. The competition was moved outside last year to promote social distancing, but since whip-popping doesn’t sound the same without good acoustics, it is being moved back inside the complex this year.
Attendees this year can expect to see kids excited to be back, Webb says.
“Raising a project, no matter what it is, they have to devote the time and energy to it,” he says, adding that the experience makes them more responsible.
“It gives them a sense of accomplishment.”
For more information, visit pcyf.net or the Polk County Youth Fair page on Facebook.