UD Cooperative Extension at the Delaware State Fair

UD Cooperative Extension at the Delaware State FairThe University of Delaware Cooperative Extension once again has a strong footprint at the Delaware State Fair, which runs July 20 through Saturday, July 29, at the fairgrounds in Harrington.

“Each year I grow more impressed with our staff, Extension scholars and volunteers who represent Extension’s role and greet the public at the fair,” said Michelle Rodgers, director of Cooperative Extension and associate dean at the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “The fair venue is a great opportunity to converse with the public, answer questions, and highlight how Extension extends knowledge and changes lives across our state.”

Delaware Cooperative Extension, jointly represented by Delaware’s two land grant institutions, the University of Delaware and Delaware State University, return to their  newly designed exhibit in the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) Commodities Building. Four large screen monitors highlight video of Extension’s four areas of outreach education: 4-H, agriculture, lawn & garden, and family and consumer sciences. Also featured is a 360-degree virtual reality display of UD’s irrigation research at Warrington Farm and DSU’s high tunnel research from its Smyrna Outreach & Research Center.  Extension experts will also be on hand to answer questions. Two gift baskets courtesy of UD and DSU will be given away on the fair’s final day, Saturday, July 29 at 4 p.m.

Directly across from the Extension exhibit, DDA’s demonstration kitchen will serve as a stage for a variety of interesting and delicious “how to” presentations, many taught by UD Extension staff members.

A ‘Super Bowl’ event for 4-H

For 4-H youth exhibitors, the Delaware State Fair is the 4-H version of the Super Bowl — the grand finale showcasing their project work throughout the year, which begins every September.

As they progress through the year, 4-H youth select the best of their work to display at the fair, with exhibits that span several project areas including canning, entomology, beekeeping, clothing and textiles, horticulture, crops, food products, woodworking, computer graphics and photography, and others.

Extension staff, Master Food Educators, Master Gardeners and 4-H alumni and leaders serve as exhibit judges. This year more than 10,000 exhibits were checked in.

The Delaware State Fair is the capstone event for 4-H contest winners at the county level, who will vie for overall state honors in Harrington, with competitions in livestock, poultry, horticulture, vegetable, clothing and textiles, and photography. Other featured contests include tractor driving, photography, archery, Avian Bowl, Consumer Bowl, the 4-H Horse Show and a talent show. The awards celebration for these contests are scheduled for  Saturday, July 29, at 5 p.m.

During the fair, temperatures in Delaware typically reach well into the 90s, with heat indexes into the 100s. Nevertheless, 4-H’ers keep their cool as added responsibility toward their livestock increases.

The heat index is of particular concern to the pigs, said Susan Garey, animal science extension agent. “The 4-H’ers and their families are very diligent,” Garey said. “They are up at the barn quite a bit.”

Pigs have a hard time cooling themselves, Garey said. 4-H’ers take their pigs to the wash rack to wet them down multiple times during the day. Wet bedding helps keep them cool.

Fair visitors may notice colored water by the livestock pens. Electrolytes added to the water help animals cope with the heat, much like human athletes when performing in hot weather.

With increased water intake and intentional damp bedding, 4-H families spend a great deal of time with shovels, brooms and rakes. “They go through a lot of shavings, that’s for sure,” said Garey. “But this is what they work for all year, what they plan for. It not just about the shows, it’s about their fair friends and the traditions and so they are enthusiastic no matter what the temperature.”

Follow 4-H and Extension at the fair on social media via @UDExtension and @Delaware4H.

Article by Adam Thomas and Michele Walfred

Photo by Michele Walfred

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.