The Berkeley County Youth Fair, a tradition for young people between ages 9 and 21, kicks off Monday, Aug. 1, and runs through Saturday, Aug. 6, at Harry D. Shelley Park, aka Youth Fairgrounds, in Martinsburg.
During the six-day event, about 800 kids will compete in various livestock categories, showing rabbits, llamas, chickens, goats, beef and dairy cows, says Barbara Kendig, corresponding secretary of the Berkeley County Youth Fair board.
Kids also can compete in ice cream-, watermelon- and doughnut-eating contests, and they can show off their talents in engine science exhibits, harvesting strawberries and arranging flowers.
The fair includes carnival rides and night entertainment programs like truck and tractor pulls, a 4-H show, fireworks and a demolition derby.
At 8 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 3, country music fans can check out a Honky Tonk Tailgate Party with four singers.
With a few days left before the fair kicks off, there's still work to do.
Lauren and Claire say they are excited - and a little nervous - to take part in their first youth fair.
"The judges have hand signals and you have to constantly be watching them," Lauren explains. At the same time, the 9-year-old must manage her heifer, making sure the animal doesn't act up and that the cow's head is held high.
"Most 9-year-old kids don't have the desire to get away from the television and wash an animal, clip an animal," says Kim Linton, the girls' mother. To compete at the fair, Lauren and Claire have to prove through a 4-H Club workbook that they monitored how much Tickles and Blackjack ate and that they kept up with the animals' health.
Patricia Cole, 18, remembers, with a laugh, her first year at the youth fair.
"I was scared to death because there were all these kids and I didn't know what to do," she says. "(My sister) helped me out and helped me with some projects."
Now Cole is returning the favor by working with her cousins to help them prepare market lambs for fair competitions.
"At the fair they'll judge us on how well we know our animal and how well we show it," Cole says. "You just gotta work hard at it."
Every night, Cole's cousins join her at the family farm, Angel Face Farms, in Martinsburg, W.Va., and she quizzes them like a youth fair judge might.
Cole, too, is preparing a number of exhibits for her eighth youth fair. She's preparing four cows and a market hog for the show ring and she's submitting presentations on vegetable and landscape gardening, tree identification and photography. Competing in that many categories takes year-round preparation, she says.
The kids who participate "get so much out of it," says Kendig, who has volunteered with the fair for 25 years. "They learn responsibility. They can't wait for the fair to start."
Cole says every year she hopes the fair will never end. "This (fair) is just so special because ... it's all about the kids. Your whole family gets involved and they come down to help you and support you. It's a great way to get the family together."
If you go ...
WHAT: 58th annual Berkeley County Youth Fair
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday, Aug. 1, through Saturday, Aug. 6
WHERE: Youth Fairgrounds on Golf Course Road in Martinsburg, W.Va.
COST: $5 per day; 12 and younger free; free for all before noon each day; carnival specials: Monday through Saturday, except Tuesday, $12 for unlimited rides between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. Tuesday, $10 for unlimited rides between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. Saturday, $10 for unlimited rides between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
DIRECTIONS: Take Interstate 81 south to exit 12. Turn left onto Winchester Ave. (W.Va. 45). Continue to follow W.Va. 45 east. W.Va. 45 east becomes W.Va. 9 east. Turn onto Grape Vine Road and follow signs to the fair off Golf Course Road.
MORE: No pets or alcohol are allowed on the fairgrounds. For advance ticket sales and passes, see Martinsburg-area merchants.
Berkeley County Youth Fair - schedule highlights:
- Monday, Aug. 1
6:30 p.m. - Truck and tractor pull
6:30 p.m. - Opening ceremonies, including Miss Youth Fair 2005 competition
- Tuesday, Aug. 2
1:30 p.m. - Dog show
5 p.m. - Ice cream-eating contest
6:30 p.m. - Truck and tractor pull
7 p.m. - 4-H style show
8:30 p.m. - Livestock Jeopardy
- Wednesday, Aug. 3
4 p.m. - Chicken barbecue
6 p.m. - Doughnut-eating contest
7 p.m. - Mini tractor pull
8 p.m. - Honky Tonk Tailgate Party with country singers Rhett Akins, Jeff Carson, Chad Brock and Daryle Singletary
- Thursday, Aug. 4
9 a.m. - Horse show
6 p.m. - Watermelon-eating contest
6:30 p.m. - Kiddie pedal tractor pull
8 p.m. - Circle B Cattle Co. bull riding
- Friday, Aug. 5
10 a.m. - Barnyard Olympics
2 p.m. - Horse costume contest
5:30 p.m. - Celebrity milking contest
6:30 p.m. - Livestock sale
8 p.m. - Figure-eight derby
- Saturday, Aug. 6
10 a.m. - Lawn and garden pull
10 a.m. - Pet show
8 p.m. - Demolition derby
10:30 p.m. - Fireworks display