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Youth Fair kicks off

August 06, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - For 10-year-old Tristen Schuster, it was all about recycling.

The Martinsburg boy has been collecting items like strings out of socks, feathers and LEGO pieces, and crafting his own fishing flies.

"It's not as easy as it looks," the home-schooled Schuster said as he showed his finely detailed fishing lures.

Schuster said he has always liked fishing, and with his new interest in fly-tying, he has become the youngest member of an association dedicated to the craft.

Schuster was one of an estimated 1,000 youths expected to participate in this week's Berkeley County Youth Fair.

The fair, now in its 60th year, gives individuals a chance to develop projects and compete for ribbons. Participants range in age from 8 years old to 21 years old, and they may choose from subject areas including livestock raising, cooking, gardening, computers, small engine repair, natural resources, cake decorating and photography.

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Although the fair does not officially start until today, youths started bringing their projects and animals to the fairgrounds off Golf Course Road on Sunday.

Schuster was getting his fly-fishing project ready for the fair outside an exhibit hall that was jammed with youths and parents.

In a livestock barn nearby, 10-year-old Jacob Long was getting his Yorkshire pig ready for showing. Long has been raising the pig this year and the animal is expected to be auctioned this week after a judging competition.

Long climbed into a wooden pen with the pig and patted it on the side as he talked about his work to raise it.

Long said he won't be sad when his pig is auctioned.

"I did it before. It really didn't hurt me," Long said.

Long's father prodded his son to say why he won't be bothered about getting rid of the pig.

"You get good money out of it," Long said.

Long and his parents, Richard and Michelle Long, raise livestock for a hobby on 20 acres they have in the Darkesville area. Long's father works at the 167th Airlift Wing, a West Virginia Air National Guard base south of Martinsburg.

The fair is a big annual tradition in the county, attracting an estimated 6,000 people every night. The event runs through Saturday.

Besides the youth competitions, the fair offers attractions like a demolition derby, truck and tractor pulls, and a chicken barbecue. The 48th Miss Youth Fair Contest is tonight, and country music artist Darryl Worley will perform Wednesday at 8 p.m.

The fair is considered a unique event among fairs across the country because of its focus on youth.

The youth fair started in 1947, but its history goes back further.

Berkeley County started holding a fair in 1916, and it focused on youth and adults, said Doug Hovatter, a West Virginia University associate professor and 4-H agent in Berkeley County.

The early version of the fair peaked in 1926 before falling off during The Great Depression, Hovatter said.

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