Bright lights, rides, games, music and revelry mark the peak of summer, as the Teton County Fair returns for 2021.
And yet, it is in the calm of the exhibition center, in the exhibition halls and barns, in the stalls and around the dusty arena, that a year of hard work, small mornings, efforts invisible and silent community engagement surpasses the Ferris wheel the fundamental definition of community.
Teton County 4-H and the Teton County Fair’s Blue Ribbon Showroom are traditional mainstays of Fair Week. Showcasing the generosity of the Tetons, the craftsmanship of the neighbors and the agricultural traditions of the West, they are major elements of the fair that should never be overlooked.
“It’s really a family affair,” Erika Edmiston said of the 4-H program. Her own children, Jack and Maslyn, have been raising cattle for years. “Kids love to go to the fair and present the projects they have worked on. It’s a great way to see them shine and open up about what they’re passionate about.
Edmiston said 4-Hs make an important connection between the Jackson community and the county’s agricultural history, especially amid the dramatic changes taking place throughout the Teton region. She recognized that not all families have the space or opportunity to raise and work with livestock, but the emphasis on leadership and growth remains consistent across all 4-H programs.
The Civic Club, for example, does not require a stall for cows, pigs, or goats.
Led by Adria Stines, the club focuses on volunteer work, from the local to the international level, supporting organizations and initiatives that uplift others. Some of the projects the group has lent a hand to include collecting seeds for the Grand Teton National Park reseeding projects, volunteering and fundraising for the Ronald McDonald House in Salt Lake City, working with the Senior Jackson Hole Center and Town Cleanup. projects.
Stines said the job isn’t always fun, but students learn lessons of empathy and caring. She has seen young people use their experiences at the Civic Club to write college admissions essays.
“Some kids are very motivated and motivated,” she said. “And then you have some of them who are pushing hard and they don’t think volunteering is great. Volunteering is not always fun. … One year, we isolated a house in Habitat for Humanity and it was itching. But looking back, the students said, “Wow, we helped a family get into a house.” And that only works to make you a better, more balanced person. “
Groups like the Civic Club will be exhibiting their work in the Blue Ribbon Hall, Stines said. They will create posters and illustrations showing what they have accomplished during the year. Some will create works that show what they hope to accomplish in the coming year.
“There has been a lot of interest this year as things are opening up again,” Teton County 4-H coordinator Glenn Owings said of the pandemic which has disrupted many 4- programs. H last year. “This year we’ve had one of the strongest participations in the 4-H program with some of the most diverse projects, which speaks to the volunteers we have.”
The Teton County 4-H program offers dozens of such clubs and classes to cater for a variety of interests, and many of them result in registrations for the Teton County Fair.
Edmiston notes that the students are more than happy to talk about their projects with the people who come to the exhibit hall or the heritage arena to take a look.
“When my kids were too small to be in 4-H, we would go into the cattle arena and I was always too intimidated to ask the students questions,” she said. “We would watch the animals and come back straight away. I learned from 4-H that kids want you to talk to them. It’s a big part of the whole program. Many of them hang around and wait for you to ask them about their plans. Don’t worry, you aren’t bothering anyone when you engage with them.
“We feel like we’ve been planning this fair for two years,” said Rachel Grimes, director of the Teton County Fair and Exhibition Center. “We had planned this fair for 2020, then the pandemic struck. Fortunately, many of our subcontractors were kind enough to renew the contracts for 2020. ”
Grimes said this year’s fair will feel small compared to what the public expected before COVID-19. Some of the free events – such as the petting zoo, the All Aboard train tour, paintball events – won’t be at this year’s show. Due to scheduling conflicts, the pig fight, a permanent crowd pleaser, was also canceled.
But fear not, Grimes said, some cancellations have made room for new events and programs, like the Teton County Centennial Celebration, which will take place at 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 31 in the Big Top tent. Teton County marks the 100th anniversary of its incorporation with live music from the almost equally historic Stagecoach Band and, of course, cake.
And many favorites from years gone by will be back. This year’s evening events include the Bev Halpin Memorial Team Branding event on Thursday, July 29, the Fair Rodeo on Saturday, July 30, and Figure 8 races on Sunday, August 1, all in the rodeo arena. The beer garden opens at 4 pm on Thursday July 29, with the taps open until Saturday July 31; live music will begin at 5 pm each day; the pie tasting contest, diaper contest, bag races and more start at 4 p.m. on Sunday, August 1; and of course, the 4-H cattle sale, the culmination of the work of so many valley students, starts at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 30.
“The good thing about this sale is that a large portion of the animals purchased are donated to local nonprofits like the senior center, churches and food banks,” Owings said.