While fairs nowadays are highlighted for their fried foods, carnival games, and amusement rides, it never used to be that way. In fact, fairs were first started by farmers as a way to promote agricultural improvement and showcase their animals. People would come to the fair from all over the state to watch plowing competitions, animal shows, and test out manufactured goods. The pioneer of all fairs is The Great New York State Fair, and it was founded all the way back in 1841, inspiring state fairs across the country in the following years!
While fairs changed over the years, many of the traditions remained, as did its popularity. The NYS Fair alone gets over one million visitors each year, an attendance followed closely by the North Carolina State Fair. That’s a lot of attendees! Of course, everyone isn’t coming to the fair just to see livestock and agricultural improvement exhibits, but they still have the opportunity to do so.
Fairs around the country have exhibits of livestock that are brought in by farmers. The livestock and their owners then compete in shows. The livestock are judged by a panel of judges based on their phenotypic breed traits such as udders, legs and feet, and frame. Livestock owners spend the entire year raising, grooming, conditioning, and feeding their animals for these state fair competitions. It’s a big deal! Based on their performance, they can receive ribbons and cash prizes.
Livestock shows not only provide a great opportunity to showcase the hardworking people in agriculture, but they also open the door to a conversation with consumers. As visitors walk through the livestock buildings, they can talk with farmers and learn about how their food is raised, how farmers practice sustainability and other dairy cow facts. There is no better place to go to for a question about farming, livestock, and land than to the farmers themselves!