Wayne County Fair
Food, fun, fur and feathers!
The Wayne County Fair is a thousand things in one. There is always something to see and always something to eat. Folks from all over the Tri-state area flock to Honesdale to see one of the most complete and entertaining fairs in northeastern PA.
But they aren’t the only ones to flock to the fair; farmers and young agricultural enthusiasts trailer their livestock en masse to show and compete all week long down at the barns. From goats and sheep, to pigs and, of course, beef and dairy cows, 4-Hers and open competitors fill the barns with bleating, oinking, mooing sounds of life. Not to be forgotten though, are the furry and feathered animals of the poultry and rabbit barn. In any of these barns one can expect to see prime specimens of various breeds and heritages, grown and maintained by exhibitors throughout the year.
Open competitors are those who enter to show animals that are not registered in the 4-H program and cannot be sold at the livestock auction at the end of the week. 4-Hers who show animals must have completed project books, which document their work to raise their animals and record their investments—all to show that they fully understand the process of raising livestock of one kind or another. 4-Hers who enter market goats, sheep, pigs and beef cattle understand that entering their project results in the mandated sale of that animal at the end of the week at the 4-H Junior Livestock Sale. Buyers congregate for the auction of these animals in the main arena on Saturday, August 11 beginning at 10 a.m. to bid on animals and support the 4-H program through scholarship donations made through the sale.
But before that, all week long, there are shows featuring the various kinds of livestock. Most mornings and throughout the week of the Wayne County Fair, families and friends gather to support the local youth as they don their competitive show attire and demonstrate their animal handling skills in the arena. The Penn State extension office oversees and runs the logistics with the help of volunteers to give competitors and spectators an exciting experience. Winners are awarded ribbons and premiums based upon showmanship within each category such as market, dairy, or breeding classes.
The shows hold to a very strict schedule and often run back to back, however; if you miss a show or cannot be at the fair on a given day, you can visit the barns, which house the wide array of animals all week long. Visitors can walk the aisles of the barns and see animals being groomed and fed or simply resting until their spotlight calls. 4-Hers work hard all week long to keep the barns clean and their animals comfortable in hopes of performing well come time. But it’s not all about the flashy perks of showing at the fair; Penn State Extension Educator Chelsea Hill says, “It’s not about the shows, the premiums, or how well you [4-Hers] do at the sale. It’s about the life lessons and experiences gained and where it takes the youth in their futures.”
Hill, who deals with a majority of the shows, looks forward to seeing the culmination of many of the 4-H members’ hard work. Last year at the sale, Hill oversaw a record-breaking $400,000 invested in the sale overall, with roughly over $30,000 raised towards the scholarship fund, which benefits senior 4-H members. Hill also expresses her pride in the 4-H members for their roles in educating the public on topics such as “general livestock knowledge and proper animal care and well-being.”
While the livestock and large animals are certainly entertaining to see and hear, the rabbits, chickens and other birds provide a look at more small-scale agriculture. Flocks of chickens, turkeys and even doves fill the upper barn with colorful arrays of feathers and sometimes rock-star-like plumage decorating their crests. The rabbits, meanwhile, munch contentedly in the lower barn below the chickens and range in all shapes and sizes. One might even see a chinchilla or two among the smattering of species.
The Wayne County Fair runs from Friday August 3 through Saturday August 11, and boasts a number of events for all audiences. (See also page 25.) A complete schedule of events and judging schedule for livestock can be found online at Waynecountyfair.com. Grab a funnel cake to share with the family, but as Hill asks, “Please don’t feed the animals.”