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For students, Franklin fair is about family and heritage

August 19, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- "What kind of cow is this?" a woman asked.

Tied to a stall at the Franklin County Fair on Wednesday, Fergie, a Guernsey heifer owned by Rachel Frantz of Waynesboro, Pa., turned her brown and white head to see who wanted to know.

"See what I mean?" asked fair president Robert Eckstine.

The Franklin County Fair is as much about education as it is about having fun, Eckstine said.

For the students who enter animals like Fergie in the fair's many competitions, the weeklong agricultural celebration is about more than fun or education.

It's about heritage.

Rachel, 17, has shown her cows at the fair for the last 10 years. Her father and grandfather showed at the fair, she said.

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"I guess you'd say I'm a fifth-generation farmer, third-generation showing at the fair," she said.

The fair "gets in your blood," she said. "It's about family."

Sisters Melinda Cordell, 19, and Dakota Hampton, 17, of Waynesboro agree.

The sisters have spent the last nine summers showing their cows. Like them, their cows baking in the heat Wednesday were third generation participants in the fair.

"It's really a family thing for the cows," Dakota explained. "They pass a love of it on same as it was passed onto us."

Show cows are like pets, requiring constant attention and training, Cordell said.

The relationships between animal and human built at the fair mirrors that of a parent and child, she said.

While heritage and family are at the core of what has made the fair stick around for 103 years, what will keep it going is not what was, but what it will be, Dakota said.

It's about the future, she said.

With the number of farms declining across the state of Pennsylvania, promoting agricultural knowledge and appreciation is a major concern for the three girls.

"People come here not knowing that milk does not come from a grocery store," Rachel said. "The fair promotes agriculture."

"And people think we need to get rid of farms to make way for a development, but they don't realize just what they are losing," Dakota said. "I want my kids to have the same experiences at the fair that I've had, the experiences that have made me stronger mentally and physically."

One does not have to be a dairy princess to be an ambassador for agriculture's future, Cordell said.

None of these three farm girls don prom gowns and make-up to advocate for agriculture's future.

Rather, they use their boots and pitchforks. And it draws plenty of inquiring minds.

Excusing herself from conversation with friends, Rachel turned to the woman who asked about Fergie.

"She's a Guernsey," she said. "A dairy cow."

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