People usually associate state and county fairs with Ferris wheels and food on a stick. But in areas that have seen their demographics shift from rural to urban populations, these fairs are now serving a new role of connecting city folk to their country roots.
One way the Wyandotte County Fair, which runs July 22 to 26, does this is through its competitions in arts and crafts, food, agriculture and livestock, run by the local 4-H club.
4-H is a youth organization that organizes activities and guides children through completing projects for local fairs. The Wyandotte County 4-H has over 125 categories of projects including rocketry, geology and cake decorating, as well as the traditional livestock showings. And since it's based in a county that has a substantial urban population, a lot of the non-agrarian categories are popular.
"4-H is way bigger than owning a chicken," says 4-H youth coordinator Olivia Moore.
But another 4-H representative, Pam Howe, points out that the categories that have increased exponentially in recent years have been the ones in which children show small animals such as cats, dogs, rabbits and chickens. Rabbits and chickens in particular had to be judged for two days because each category had over 100 entries.
The day before the fair opens, packs of excited children roam the chicken and rabbit barn during the competition, eagerly showing off and cuddling their pets. A family of seven lingers by the pony corral. The daughters are trying to entice a pony to the gate with offerings of grass and wildflowers. Their parents have rural roots, but they are raising their children in an urban area of Wyandotte County, so seeing a horse is rare and exciting.
Bennet Addinct, one of the sons, says his rooster, Napoleon won second place in one of the competitions. Unfortunately, the family lives in an area where raising poultry is prohibited, so they were fined for keeping him.
His parents were sheepish on the topic, but it didn't sound like Napoleon was going anywhere: after all what's a fine compared to a prize-winning rooster?