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By Scott Jester, 08/16/21 4:57 PM

“Here comes the Fair”, said the way-tired Gramps to his way-excited grandkids. “Is this the one with all the rides and stuff?” asked one. “No,” said Gramps. “This is the one where you get to show Henrietta, your chicken, to everyone in Hope, “ said Gramps adding a few more folks to the actual attendance for effect.

“Wow”, said the grandkid, “Your Mom, Dad and even I, Gramps, will help you,” said a now-overconfident Gramps.

And with that short conversation, another youngster will be introduced to the wonderful world that is known as the Hempstead County Fair, an event in which they may participate in various categories for the remainder of their lives. It is a time of year, not to ride rides and get a stomachache from the food, but to connect and re-connect with family and friends and to catch up and compete with their entries.

The County Fair has several categories primarily designed for children and young adults, involving many from the local 4-H Club and the FFA (Future Farmers of America) organization. These two organizations provide the proper foundation early to build upon as they get older. Whether they compete in the Fair or not, they will have tools in their toolbox for a good life.

Now for a bit of trivia. Do you know what the four H’s stand for? They stand for Head, Heart, Hands, and Health, the values the youngsters incorporate in their fun and educational programs. Did you know the FFA was founded in 1928? And there are currently more than 760,000 members from 7th through 12th grade and college.

The 4-H mission statement is “to provide meaningful opportunities for all youth and adults to work together to create sustainable community change. This is accomplished within three primary content areas, or mission areas – civic engagement and leadership, healthy living, and science.”

Read the above again, slowly.

It promises to make sure there are fun activities available for all area kids while they work with responsible adults in order to produce a CHANGE IN OUR COMMUNITY! Thus, providing a better place for all of us to live and flourish.

God bless the 4-H. God Bless our local FFA chapter. And the volunteers and teachers who dedicate their time.

Don Honea serves as President of the Hempstead County Fair Association, a position that seems as natural to him as his easy-going nature upon meeting a stranger.

He knows the Fair inside and out having been involved for more than 20 years. He comes by this responsibility naturally too as he was involved in the Livestock competition as a boy.

“I grew up on the farm,” he stated in a recent interview. “We had cows, hogs, and other animals and it was just natural to me, so when I joined FFA, I started going to the Fair and showing.

Anyone who has grown up on a farm knows that everyone in the family plays an important role in keeping the farm running and it was the same when competing in the Fair. Everything from canning to crafts, from bee honey to bovine, everyone pitched in.

“All of the family needs to be involved,” Honea said. “It’s an experience of a lifetime. You can go to school and get book learning and play in the band or on the football team, and that’s important, but what you learn on the farm, especially showing in the Fairs, you will use it the rest of your life,” he said.

“You are taught things that will not be taught in any other way.”

The Livestock Premium Sale is the highlight of the Fair where young men and women lead their prize animal into the arena. And in those minutes, it is the culmination of the work, sweat and tears it took to feed, and condition the animal into “premium” shape for the Fair.

The proceeds raised on the animal from the auction go back to the original owner to cover expenses incurred along the way with their Ribbon Winner. Oh, and the kid keeps his/her cow in the end too.

“That couldn’t be done without the help of the community, support of Hempstead County and the businesses around here,” said Honea. “They do a fantastic job. Last year, we raised more than $30,000.”

Everyone wins at the County Fair. Everyone.

Honea continued talking about the kids and in essence, talking about the future of Hope, Hempstead County and possibly well beyond the Arkansas border. Kids with values such as confidence and courage that they picked up along the way in the show ring or participating somehow in the County Fair.

And it begins on August 28 at Hope’s Fair Park.

Meet Dorene Mosier. A mother, grandmother, and an A+ human being, continuing her role as a long-time employee of Rainbow of Challenges, Inc. in Hope. She too, competes in the Fair every year, eyeing the Fair guide for the categories she plans to enter.

“It was something that when my kids were growing up, it allowed them to participate in something that was strictly about them. My kids were also involved in FFA at the time, and we were down there together a lot in the late ‘90’s.”

Almost as important, the County Fair allows folks with disabilities from around the area to participate too, something that is very close to Mosier’s heart. “My position with ROC allowing our individuals to participate was big with me,” she said. “Many of our individuals at ROC are into crafting, some like to cook or do art, so it is a wonderful option to find something out in the community for them. And it’s small enough to give some recognition to them,” Mosier stated.

“What a deal it is to be recognized in your community to have the best pie, or the best this or that. It gives you a little boost when you see your name in the paper and it’s that ribbon, that true recognition that what you submitted was worthy of a ribbon.”

Plus, for Mosier, there’s the healthy sense of competition, even in the strawberry jam game for which she is widely-known. “I sometimes know the other people in the other categories that I’m competing against and it’s like ‘how can I look at this recipe this year and make it better and then do that. Maybe it’s how you process your mixture, even down to picking the jar.

“It’s that healthy competition that teaches you on how to get that ribbon, because I’m not one of those that should get a “participation” medal,” she says with a laugh.

Mosier knows how important such activities such as the County Fair are to the entire family fabric. “When it is Fair Time where you take your kids and now my grandkids and their results are now posted on the wall, maybe with a ribbon on it or a plaque. That means being able to take that picture and being able to talk about it. I think it does bring the family closer together.”

On Opening Day Saturday, the Little Miss and Miss Hempstead County Pageants will be held. Monday is “Check-in Day” for Horticulture, Canning, Arts & Crafts & Photography. Tuesday means getting ALL ITEMS checked in before 11:00 a.m. Judging begins for Canning, Arts & Crafts, Cut Flowers, Horticulture & Photography beginning at 1:00 p.m.

The Hempstead County Fair Association will host the weekly Chamber of Commerce Community Coffee on Wednesday morning at the HUB in downtown Hope. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy fellowship with other friends from the community over some hot coffee, a cold bottled water and a snack.

Thursday welcomes the general public as all exhibits will be on display and the Livestock Show begins at 5:00 p.m. with Poultry, Rabbits, Cattle, Goats, Sheep, and Swine being shown.

On Friday, the Fair concludes with the Livestock Premium Sale along with many educational exhibits on display. It’s also check-out and clean-up day for all the areas.

This year’s Fair is coming up quickly beginning on Saturday, August 28, with the Little Miss Hempstead and Miss Hempstead County Pageants, and concludes on Friday, September 3, with the Livestock Premium Sale. For more information, contact Don Honea at 870-703-3307, or the Hempstead County Extension Service in the Courthouse at 870-777-5771.

PHOTO CUTLINE: Hempstead County Fair Association President Don Honea holds this year’s Hempstead County Fair Entry Guide in downtown Hope.