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Ag Expo volunteers pitch in for the kids

August 02, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

SHARPSBURG - Farmer Tom Shaw still volunteers with the Washington County Ag Expo, even though his youngest son outgrew the 4-H events seven years ago.

The reason goes back to his own childhood, when he and his father went on the road each fall to show cattle at county fairs all over the region.

"It was such a good experience. It was a long tradition and a tradition I did not want to see die," he said.

In the 1950s, farmers could make a profit showing cattle, he said.

These days, the money made from selling a prize-winning animal often doesn't cover the costs.

But the lessons learned are invaluable, he said.

Young people must take on the responsibility of caring for an animal and keeping records about its progress.

Their crowning glory comes at the Ag Expo, which kicks off its 18th year today.

It takes dozens of volunteers like Shaw to keep the week-long event going, organizers said.

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There are 15 directors and countless other helpers

Ag Expo President Hal Spielman gave one reason why he volunteers - "for the kids."

Even though August is a busy time for farmers, many find the time to organize and participate.

A lot of the planning gets done in advance. Then there's a big push in the last few days to build pens for the animals being exhibited and set up bleachers for the rodeo.

"Everybody just chips in a does it," said Spielman, who also competed in 4-H when he was growing up and now teaches agriculture at Smithsburg High School.

Joanna Calimer, who lives in Waynesboro, Pa., does publicity for the event.

People often wonder about her connection to agriculture. Then she tells them where she grew up - on the Byers Farm on Downsville Pike.

Farms may be dwindling in Washington County, but interest in the Ag Expo is at its peak, organizers said.

As one example, the number of 4-H beef animals entered in competition has nearly doubled from last year. There were 25 last year and 46 this year, Calimer said.

Calimer said Ag Expo is generating more community interest. People who aren't farmers are entering flowers and vegetables from their gardens and Expo organizers are offering more educational exhibits.

"People are realizing this fair is not just for farmers," she said.

Another boost has been the Expo's facilities at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center on Sharpsburg Pike.

In past years, the Expo was held at the Hagerstown Speedway. Although it was a good site, it wasn't geared toward agriculture like the education center, she said.

"There's a lot of excitement about the center and its growth and the additional facilities we're going to have in years to come," she said.

Admission price of the Expo ranges from $2 to $10, depending on the day and time. Children 8 and under are always free. Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. is free for anyone over 65.

Weekly passes can be purchased for $15 at the center until noon Sunday.

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