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Berkeley County Youth Fair starts

August 02, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Chris Butler has known for two years that the day would come when he had to say goodbye to Charlie, but that doesn't make it any easier.

After winning a third-place ribbon as a 575 lb. feeder calf at last year's Berkeley County Youth Fair, Charlie is now a 900 lb. black angus steer and ready for the auction block.

Two years of feeding, watering and brushing Charlie has formed an attachment between the steer and the 11-year-old Inwood, W.Va., boy, but Butler said he knew from the beginning that Charlie would eventually end up in the hands of a butcher.

"I'll still miss him," Butler said.

Butler and Charlie are among the 900 exhibitors and 2,000 exhibits at the 52nd annual Berkeley County Youth Fair that opens today and runs through Friday at Harry D. Shelley Park in Martinsburg.

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A steady rainfall that began Sunday afternoon was a welcome sight for many at the fair.

"Everybody is enjoying this," fair organizer and West Virginia University Extension Agent Doug Hovatter said.

The rain, however, came too late to help many of the exhibits at the fairgrounds.

Hay cuttings are less plentiful this year, and fruits and vegetables on display are smaller than at past fairs, Hovatter said.

The fair usually boasts more than a dozen exhibits of field corn but this year only has two or three, he said.

The students in Future Farmers of America usually have two or three tables filled with vegetables but this year have only one table, and even that wasn't full, Martinsburg High School adviser Rick Jenkins said.

"It's easily about 80 percent down from what it usually is," Jenkins said.

With exhibits ranging from potatoes to horses, the fair is a showcase for the agricultural efforts of the county's children and young adults, Hovatter said.

"The end result is that it teaches kids development, meeting deadlines, skills and gives them a sense of community. It allows children to explore their interests," Hovatter said.

Feeding and watering Nellie at 7 a.m. has taught 10-year-old Ryan Shade of Martinsburg to be responsible, said his parents, Michael and Libby Shade.

"Every morning before school he would take care of his lamb. That prepares him for the future," Libby Shade said.

For recent West Virginia University graduate Menda Foster, this year brings the last opportunity to compete at the Berkeley County Youth Fair.

The 21-year-old Hedgesville, W.Va., woman is in her last year of eligibility. She found time to enter a steer, a pig, a lamb, five goats and several projects.

Among her entries is a 4-foot-by-3-foot American flag made entirely from the ribbons Foster has won during the 13 years she has participated in the fair.

Coming home from college in Morgantown, W.Va., on weekends to tend her animals, the future veterinarian said the fair and her 4-H involvement have been a rewarding experience.

While she won't be able to enter anything next year, she promises she will be back.

"I want to give back to others what so many here have given me," Foster said.

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