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Fairgoers stop to watch a cow being milked at the North Dakota State Fair in Minot, N.D., on July 23, 2019. (Jenny Schlecht/Agweek)

State fairs offer chance for agriculture to show off

MINOT, N.D. — To many, a visit to a state fair means fried foods or hitting up exciting rides on the midway. But for many in agriculture, state and county fairs remain a major way to reach the public.

The North Dakota State Fair ran July 19 to 27 in Minot. State fair manager Renae Korslien didn't have a tally on how many animals passed through the many barns on the grounds, but she considered the fair a success.

"If we could only count all the smiles and the wonderful animals those kids have brought to us," she said. "These wonderful 4-H and FFA kids, they truly are a great lesson for all of us."

Korslien said the livestock barns are a great way to learn about animal husbandry and the origins of meat.

North Dakota State Fair Manager Renae Korslien talks to visitors to the Livestock Expo building at the North Dakota State Fair."Watch them show their animals," she said. "There are so many people who don't have a touch with agriculture today, and this is the place to see it. And these kids will gladly explain it to you. They want to talk to you about how they raised that animal and the work they have to do to do it."

And the fair doesn't showcase just animal agriculture. FFA and 4-H members from across the state display their work from across the past year and across a vast array of disciplines at the state fair, too. Aaron Anderson, North Dakota state FFA advisory, said almost 23,000 FFA exhibits from 70 chapters across the state were entered at the fair.

"They range from floriculture, ag mechanics, educational, to our livestock," he said. "We're really excited for our students to be able to showcase all the work they've done."

The FFA Hall this year also featured some interactive displays from Global Technology and the Western Corps of Discovery, a technology consortium.

The opportunity for students to show their work and modern agriculture to the public is "huge," Anderson said.

"The students work hard every day in the classroom to learn about agriculture, learn different concepts and techniques. And the fair is our way to showcase that to the public," he said. "We can do our little bit to hopefully educate the consumer about agriculture and the importance of agriculture to everyone in America."

The U.S. Postal Service also recognizes the importance of state and county fairs and used the North Dakota State Fair to dedicate four new Forever stamps.

"State and county fairs are quintessential Americana," a release from the U.S. Postal Service said. "Long before there were extension services or schools of agriculture, America's fairs were organized to educate farm families in the agricultural, mechanical and domestic arts."

"The great thing about fairs is they have something for everyone, from concerts and carnival rides to cotton candy and contest winners" said Postal Service Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President David E. Williams, who served as the dedicating official. "These whimsical stamps highlight the educational and social value fairs bring to communities with opportunities to learn, teach, and have fun with friends and family."

While the North Dakota State Fair has wrapped up, other states in the region are still working toward their big events. The Minnesota State Fair is scheduled for Aug. 22-Sept. 2 in St. Paul. The South Dakota State Fair will be held in Huron Aug. 29-Sept. 2. The Montana State Fair in Great Falls wrapped up this past weekend, but MontanaFair in Billings, Mont., runs Aug. 9-19.