The Somerset County 4-H Fair, located at North Branch Park in Bridgewater, brings fun and learning together Aug. 8 – 10. A county tradition since 1947, this year’s theme is ‘Unleash Your Passion.’ Somerset County 4-H Program Coordinator Barbara Navatto explained that there’s something for every child to enjoy and explore.
“The fact is, that in 4-H, kids can investigate any topic of interest to them,” she said. An adult, usually a parent, will start a club based on a child’s interest and invite other kids with the same interest. One of our newest clubs is a Doll Club. The kids are learning American Culture and History by following the stories of the dolls during different periods of history. They are doing arts and crafts, sewing, and taking field trips.”
Appealing to the interests of boys and girls of all ages, 4H offers animal science clubs, but also robotics, beekeeping, computer repair, archery and a variety of others focused on different hobbies.
“But the goal of these year-round 4-H Clubs, while teaching special interests, is the broader development of youth,” Navatto noted. “We are teaching leadership, citizenship, public speaking and responsibility. 4-H members act as mentors to younger members and role models in the community. They are developing life skills, growing in self-confidence, making friends and having fun.”
Although the Fair has grown and changed a little, some things have remained the same: there are no admission or parking fees and no midway or carnival rides. All day (10 am-10pm), free professional & amateur entertainment can be enjoyed as well.
Free shuttle buses run from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. each day of the Fair from Raritan Valley Community College Rt. 28, North Branch.
Fair highlights include:
Friday in Show Tent
10:00am – 12:00pm Beef Obstacle Course
1:00pm – 3:00pm Alpaca Agility Course
3:00pm – 4:00pm Livestock Costume Class
5:00pm – 7:00pm Round Robin
7:30 pm – 9:30 pm Goat Obstacle Course
“These are the fun shows,” Navatto said. “Everyone has been judged on their breed standards and on their showmanship earlier in the week. At the Round Robin, the champion showman of each species has to show all the other species to win overall Grand Showman. The best Dairy showman has to show a rabbit and the best Poultry showman has to show a horse, etc. Anything can happen! During the obstacle courses, the animals and owners provide many laughs. If it’s too hot for the animals, the members have to run the course rather than the animals. Sometimes the parents and leaders or club alum get to lead an animal or run the course themselves. And the Costume Class shows exactly how creative, original and sometimes silly, Somerset County 4-H’ers can be!”
Look for the dog obstacle course and costume classes in their show tent.
The Somerset County 4-H Fair recognizes the accomplishments of 1,000 Somerset County 4-H members and is a showcase for visitors to see a wide variety of 4-H projects in action. Twirling, go karts, rockets, magic, model airplanes, R.C. cars, model trains, and other 4-H clubs compete and perform. The Arts Tent, Science Tent, and Prep Tent (for the youngest 4-H’ers) are packed with exhibits, activities for visitors, demonstrations, and performances. Ten other 4-H tents house a variety of animals including dairy cows, beef, alpaca, horses, dogs, herpetology, sheep, goats, poultry, rabbits, and small animals. Most animal tents have a petting area and information about how to join 4-H.
Navatto shares two major events that are not to be missed:
The 50th Birthday of 4-H Prep.
“We are celebrating Wednesday evening in the 4-H Prep Tent following the Welcome Ceremony, around 7:30,” explained Navatto. “Before Grace Connor of Hillsborough volunteered to start a club for kids in grades 2-3, a child had to be in 4th grade to join 4-H. Since 1968, 4-H Prep (preparing for 4-H) has spread to every county in NJ and has been adopted by National 4-H as the Cloverbud Program. We are proud of Somerset County 4-H for initiating a program that has allowed hundreds of families to get involved at a younger age. Many Prep Leaders go on to volunteer as standard 4-H club leaders and to join the 4-H Association. Both Somerset County Outstanding 4-H Volunteers this year, Betty Sommerville of Bridgewater and Judy Hennessey, formerly of Pluckemin, began their 4-H careers as Prep Advisors.”
Guiness World Record
Navatto noted that this past winter, Club leader and 4-H Association member, Sue MacCombie of Hillsborough, got word from Guinness that they would allow Somerset County 4-H to attempt to make the longest textile braid in the world.
“Over 200 4-H members and volunteers stripped fabric, braided sections, sewed the sections together and produced over 5,000 feet of braid,” she explained. “The Ball of Braid will be on display in the 4-H information tent during the three days of the Fair. As far as we know, this is the only successful 4-H project to be included as a Guinness World Record. The goals were to bring 4-H’ers from many different projects together to work on a common goal, to promote 4-H and to upclycle used fabric. The braid will eventually be made into rugs for charity.”
Fair App serves as tour guide
While at the Fair map and schedules of daily events such as dog, horse, and livestock shows can be found at the Information Tent. Or, check out the new Fair App which includes an interactive map of the fairgrounds, customizable schedule, scavenger hunt, overall Somerset County 4-H information and weather alerts. The Fair App was designed and created by Somerset County 4-H’er’s from 20 different clubs, ranging from the arts, sciences, and animals, with the goal of revolutionizing the Fair experience for both 4-Her’s and the public, noted Rebecca Moore, who serves as the adult chaperone for the group.
“The interactive map of the fairgrounds helps attendees navigate their way around and provides the viewer with information about the various tents and what activities are happening in those tents where applicable,” explained Moore. “The scavenger hunt is a fun feature that helps attendees explore the fairgrounds, once you’ve completed the scavenger hunt you’re rewarded with a coupon for 50 cents off a milkshake from the Somerset County 4-H Association Food Tent booth.”
For more information, visit the Somerset County 4-H website.