Opening ceremony celebrates success of Orleans County 4-H Fair

Photos by Tom Rivers: Local veterans raised the American flag during opening ceremonies on Monday for the Orleans County 4-H Fair. This is the 75th fair for the county. It’s a tradition since 1947, except when the fair was cancelled two years ago due to Covid-19 restrictions.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 July 2022 at 9:03 am

KNOWLESVILLE – The Orleans County 4-H Fair was busy on Monday, opening day for the annual event featuring livestock shows, commercial exhibits and lots of food.

Local officials kicked off the fair with an opening ceremony where veterans raised the American flag.

The Orleans County 4-H Fair draws about 25,000 to 30,000 people for the six days, and does it as a 4-H Fair. The focus is on the youth, with no alcohol or demolition derbies.

County Legislator Bill Eick, a retired dairy farmer, recalled showing cattle 60 years ago at the fair when he was kid. He marveled at how the fair has grown in size, adding barns and numerous activities for a full schedule over six days.

County Legislator Bill Eick speaks during opening ceremonies next to the Dwight “Buzz” Hill Educator Center.  County Legislator Ed Morgan is at right with fair manager Marty Zwifka at left and Zack Welker in back. Welker is president of the board of directors for the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County.

Marty Zwifka, the fair manager, said the community enjoys the fair and the organizers wanted to keep making it better. This year’s fair includes some new additions, including more Midway rides and other entertainment.

Welker, who is also the cattle barn superintendent, said he is pleased the livestock numbers grew for many of the animals and held steady for others. He is happy to see the barns full of animals and 4-Hers.

“The livestock program has grown,” he said. “An incredible group of young people have moved in. I encourage you to attend some of the shows to see what the kids have done.”

Audrey Pask, the fair queen, also encouraged people to check out the 4-H exhibits and some of the livestock and animal shows.

“The kids have worked hard on their projects and are proud to show them off,” she said.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley speaks at opening ceremonies. State Sen. Rob Ortt is at left.

State Sen. Rob Ortt praised the team that worked for many months to prepare the fair.

“Fairs like this just don’t happen,” he said.

He checked out some of the displays at the fair on Monday.

“It’s a great reminder, a great showcase of what makes Orleans County and rural New York and the GLOW community a great place and so special,” Ortt said.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley, a past president of the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Genesee County, spent much of the day visiting the barns at the fair, meeting with the 4-H youth. He said the Orleans fair has celebrated agriculture and offered fun for decades now. He recalled when his father attended the fair for the making of the world’s largest apple pie in 1977.

Troy Waffner, the former State Fair director, visited the Orleans fair on Monday in his role as Agricultural Fair Development Director for the NYS Department of Agricultural and Markets.

He said Richard Ball, the state’s agriculture commissioner, will continue to push for infrastructure grants to help the fairs maintain barns and upgrade facilities so the fairs can bring the community together and also educate the public about agriculture.

“This is a gorgeous fair and everybody should be proud of it,” he said. “Fairs are the lifeblood of agriculture and agriculture education.”

Isaac Pace, center, of Medina takes a bite out of ice cream during a contest on Monday. He is joined by his friends David Berry, left, and Alwyn Cayea. Berry ate the most ice cream of 10 participants in 30 seconds as part of the contest. It was one of many fun activities at the fair on opening day.

Zack Welker, right, rapidly consumes ice cream in the competition. Anyone who could eat more than he did in 30 seconds won a T-shirt.

The swine show has been a part of opening day at the fair for many years. Here in the show ring include, from left, Charlee Burger, Joey Forte of Hamlin and his brother Jacob Forte of Hamlin.

Adele Mathes, 11, of Barre (left) and Julia Graham, 12, of Albion get a sheep named Noel rinsed and ready for fair week.

Kylie Sokac, 9, of North Chili has fun riding a camel.