Almo, 8, rakes out wood shavings as she prepares a stall for a horse at the Monroe County Fair, which opens tomorrow.
MONROE - There are thousands of reasons the Monroe County Fair is one of the largest in the region - about 4,200 of them, actually.
That's the number of 4-H and Clover Bud members exhibiting at the fair, and it gives Monroe County one of the largest 4-H and Clover Bud memberships in either Michigan or Ohio.
It means, county 4-H agent Judy See said, about 17 percent of Monroe County youth belong to one of its 146 4-H clubs.
All those youths, with the help of 1,200 adult 4-H advisers, put together exhibits ranging from calves to Christmas ornaments that are expected to help draw 140,000 to 160,000 people to the fair, which opens tomorrow and runs through next Saturday. Those numbers in turn help the fair draw stars such as Kenny Rogers and the Oak Ridge Boys, who are headlining next week's grandstand entertainment.
"We have a very big fair," Mrs. See said. "The fair and 4-H build off each other."
In comparison, the Seneca County Fair which ends Monday, is expecting 90,000 to 95,000 people over its eight-day run.
Todd Poupard makes repairs to a refrigeration line of an ice cooler before the opening of the county fair.
And if Seneca County gets those numbers, that would make it two to three times larger than the Putnam County Fair last month, and the Paulding County and Ottawa County fairs earlier this month.
There's only one Ohio county with more 4-H members than Monroe County, which borders Lucas County to the north. Mercer County, which borders Indiana in west central Ohio, reported 5,226 4-H members last year, which is the most recent data available.
Mrs. See said she believes Monroe County is the largest 4-H county in Michigan, though state officials said they could only confirm it is one of the largest.
Either way, it means big shows at the fair.
A new 4-H competition for youth to create life-size, cardboard silhouettes of a hero is expected to draw 80 to 90 entries featuring everyone from local teachers and camp counselors to national and international figures, Mrs. See said.
A combination graphic arts/speech competition, which calls for youth to design a brochure about an event at the fair and give a speech about it, is expected to draw about 120 entries.
The fair exhibit halls organize 4-H projects by category, putting all the scrapbooks together, for instance.
Some fairs ask clubs to put their members' exhibits in one booth, which means that the entries in every category are spread throughout an exhibit hall.
Monroe's method, which makes its easy to compare projects, is more interesting for fair-goers, Mrs. See said.
"You as a visitor can observe and see why the judge made a decision on why this is the trophy winner," she said.
New this year from the senior fair board is Friday night's combine demolition derby, where about 18 agricultural harvesters are expected to crash into each other.
Tickets for that show are $6 for adults, but the fair also has more free entertainment than it has had in other years, fair manager Warren Siebarth said.
A laser light show and several musical variety shows will be presented several times every day for the first time. Helping to fund the extra entertainment is a $1 increase in the gate admission price this year, taking it to $5 for adults.
The fair has about 25 mechanical rides, plus its own miniature train, and about 60 food stands.