The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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July 11, 2012

County fairs attract youthful competitors

CARTHAGE, Mo. — For half her young life, Alyssa Rockers, 16, has been showing animals at the Jasper County Youth Fair.

This year, Alyssa and her siblings have entered goats and sheep in the competitions that are a part of the fair that has been a long-standing summertime tradition in Carthage.

More than 300 youngsters from across the county are involved in the fair that runs through Saturday, with animal exhibits and/or contests in skills including arts and crafts, horticulture, photography, cooking, mechanics and public speaking.

Politics had found its way onto the grounds of Carthage Municipal Park, with booths or signs set up by most county candidates in the August primary election. Vendors also were selling wares ranging from artwork to cookery, and foods including burgers and barbecue were being prepared for lunch on Wednesday.

The longest line was at the snow-cone trailer, even though the weather this year is far more seasonable than the blazing-high temperatures a year ago.

Alyssa already had won the public speaking event, but was uncertain how her lambs and goats would fare in this year’s competition. She said she and sister Hannah, 13, “normally place in the top 10.”

Lydia Rockers, 11, and Brett Rockers, 8, also had goats entered, and parents Dan and Dixie Rockers were there for backup. Dixie Rockers said she appreciates what raising animals and competing in the fair has taught her children.

“They take care of their own animals,” she said. “They learn responsibility and a work ethic.”

The goat show also was to include an entry led by Sarah Bass, 18, who on Tuesday was crowned Fair Queen. She said she has been involved in the youth fair since she was 6. Despite all that experience, she was wondering aloud if she should take her crown off during the goat competition.

Her main job at the fair is handing out awards and being a good role model, she said, adding, “I don’t want people to think I want the judge to play favorites.”

Alyssa said she enjoys the fair for the opportunity it gives her “to hang out with friends.

“And I like working with my animals; it gives you a sense of accomplishment.”

This year, the Rockers family was playing host to Bethany Kozitka and Kelley Vassar, of Wright County, Minn., who were in Carthage as part of a national exchange program involving youngsters in 4-H and youth fair programs.

The fair in their home county is much larger, said Bethany, adding, “But this is great; I want to stay.”

Mackenzie Bell, 8, and brother Kaleb, 11, of Jasper, were staying close to cages with chickens they were showing.

Animal care includes a bath, even for chickens, according to Mackenzie Bell, who said the process starts with a flea-and-tick shampoo and ends with a glycerin solution rinse, for shiny feathers.

Erin Bell, their mother, said she was involved in the youth fair when growing up, and wanted the same experience for her two children.

“It’s something we do as a family,” she said.

Gauge Reed, 9, Sarcoxie, also was there with his entry, a duck. Gauge said he named him Goofy, because of his behavior. But, Goofy had a blue ribbon hanging from his cage.

The fair in Carthage Municipal Park began Monday and runs through Saturday, inaugurating the fair season in the area.

The Newton County Fair started Wednesday and runs through Saturday at the fairgrounds south of Neosho.

Lance and Melissa Massey, of Neosho, were at the fair with daughter Morgan, 13. The couple said they enjoy coming to the fair and also had shown animals in their youth.

Morgan said she is showing cows, to be judged later in the week.

Chase Willis, 12, Seneca, is showing rabbits. He has seven. They are a Flemish mix and English lop-eared. This is his first year showing rabbits, although he has been coming for a number of years.

“My favorite part of the fair is looking at all the animals and just having a good time,” he said.

Josh Letner contributed to this story.

Other fairs

McDonald County, July 19-21; Cherokee County, July 17-21; Crawford County, Aug. 1-4; and Ottawa County, Aug. 18-25.


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