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Growing fair set to open

August 07, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - It has been 25 years since the Berkeley County Youth Fair moved to its grounds off Golf Course Road, giving the annual event a chance to expand and keep up with a growing number of participants.

Before moving to the current property, the fair - which starts today - was held on Raleigh Street behind Martinsburg High School, but it needed more space, fair officials said.

The fair now owns 140 acres and there has been a steady rate of construction of new buildings to accommodate its growth, fair president Steve Linton said.

The fair - which is expected to have about 750 exhibitors this week - still has enough room for its events, and fair officials plan to level some ground where parking is offered to make it easier for patrons to use, Linton said.

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The fair is one of the few county fairs in the country that focuses on youth.

Participants ranging in age from 8 to 21 select a project for the fair, now in its 59th year of existence. In the year leading up to the fair, participants follow a project book and perform other duties such as giving a speech about their subject, fair officials said.

Judges at the fair judge each project and award ribbons.

Participants may pick from subject areas including livestock raising, cooking, gardening, computers, small-engine repair, natural resources, cake decorating and photography.

County fairs throughout the Eastern Panhandle have been growing, forcing organizers to build new facilities to keep up with rising numbers of exhibitors, which sometimes have doubled between years.

Fair organizers have said one of the reasons the events fare well is because people realize the valuable lessons youth learn from the projects.

"I think it's a great activity. It's total family involvement," said Linton, adding that some families schedule their vacations around the Berkeley County Youth Fair.

"It's competition, but it's good clean competition," said Linton, who is a Berkeley County dairy farmer.

The fair runs through Saturday and includes other attractions, such as a chicken barbecue Wednesday at 4 p.m., a bull-riding event at 8 p.m. Thursday and fireworks at 10:30 p.m. Saturday.

At 8 p.m. Wednesday, singer Lee Greenwood, probably best known for his hit song "God Bless the USA," will perform.

On Sunday, participants began bringing their projects in and getting their livestock ready for their week's stay in the livestock barns that are spread across the property.

Angela Kackley was sitting on top of a pen that held a sheep she has been raising since April.

Kackley said she enjoys raising animals and would like to do it for a living some day.

"I've always wanted to be a veterinarian," said Kackley, 20.

Joseph Collis, 15, of Bunker Hill, W.Va., has Boer goats in this year's fair. Boer goats are raised for meat, he said.

"It's pretty good," Collis said.

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