SOUTHERN INDIANA — County fairs remain a strong tradition for communities across Indiana even as they continue to evolve.

While agriculture remains a component of county fairs across Indiana, fair officials say the events also play a broader role in communities.

The 4-H program, delivered through county Purdue Extension programs, is associated with many county fairs throughout Indiana.

Katie Whiteford, director and 4-H youth development educator at the Purdue Extension Clark County, said the county’s 4-H Fair in Charlestown remains a highly-attended event.

She estimates that 8,000 to 10,000 people attend the fair annually. This year’s fair will take place July 12-20.

“I think for the public, it is a great summer activity for families that is not expensive and gives kids the opportunities to come do things like see all the animals, ride [the] rides, meet other people and figure out what 4-H is,” Whiteford said.

Charlotte Bell, the secretary and treasurer for the Daviess County Fair’s board of directors, said she appreciates the tradition associated with county fairs.

The Daviess County Fair celebrated its 75th anniversary this year. It took place in late June in Elnora, Indiana.

Bell said the annual fair brings people in from outside the county. She likes “seeing how many people we can make happy.”

“Any fair is good for that county because it brings tourism to that county,” she said.

The Daviess County Fair offers events and activities such as carnival rides, pageants, tractor pulls, a car show and a demolition derby.

Bell said since the county fair is not a ticketed event, she is not sure of the exact attendance numbers. The fair’s demolition derby brought in a “standing-room-only” crowd.

“The events at our fair — some of them draw a huge crowd,” she said.

The Floyd County 4-H Fair in New Albany took a hit for a few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In 2020, [the fair] didn’t happen,” Floyd County 4-H Youth Educator Sam McCollum said. “2021 had reduced capacity — we didn’t really have rides or anything open to the public.”

“Then in 2022, it was the standard thing. We had pretty low attendance because of just the two-year break.”

This year’s fair took place in early June.

For the past two years, the Floyd County 4-H Fair received funding to make the fair free to the public, including rides and parking.

“When you don’t have to spend money to park and you don’t have to spend money for rides, people spend more money on other things like food and vendor items from local communities,” McCollum said.

“So that not only helped spread awareness that the fair was back, but it also helped local business owners make more money from our community.”

The fair attendance has grown in Floyd County, and 4-H membership has also increased, according to McCollum.

“We had an increase in the animal shows and participation in the fair for the youth over the last two years just through more outreach and encouraging youth through programming,” he said.


The Daviess County Fair is no longer associated with the county’s 4-H program. However, the Daviess County 4-H offers separate programming, including livestock shows and project exhibits.

Agriculture plays a significant role in the rural community. The Daviess County Indiana Economic Development Corp. website describes the county as a “top Indiana agricultural producer and a hub for value-added agriculture.”

Bell said although the county fair no longer focuses on agriculture since the 4-H split off, the fair is working to bring back livestock shows.

McCollum said there has been a decline in traditional agriculture over the years in Floyd County, but the 4-H fair continues to play an important role in the community.

“Farms are being sold,” he said. “Not as many people are doing it. Floyd County alone... is not a very big county, and the topography is not great or super suitable for large farms.”

According to the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, the state lost about 345,700 acres of farmland to other uses between 2010 and 2022.

Purdue Extension Floyd County is working to “reintroduce agriculture into the mindsets of the youth” through the 4-H and school programs, McCollum said.

“We’re trying to get them to understand that agriculture is not just farm work,” he said. “There’s a lot of different things involved in it.”

McCollum wants people to know that “4-H is not just for farm kids.”

“I want everyone to understand that it is a program for anyone who has an interest in just about anything,” he said.

The 4-H fair is a “showcase” for youth who have been working throughout the year on projects, whether it is raising animals or a fine arts project, McCollum said.

“They want to show the community what they have done,” he said. “And by being able to show the community their end results, we’re hoping to get that starting point for the people who are out there thinking, ‘oh, I want to do that,’ or ‘oh, that looks like fun,’ or ‘oh, I didn’t know that existed here.’” Enrollment in the Clark County 4-H program has increased steadily over the past few years. This year, 520 kids are participating, according to Whiteford.

While many exhibit livestock at the shows, a large portion of the youth are involved in other types of programs, she said.

“We have a really big robotics program,” she said. “We have a lot of kids who attend 4-H camp and come to different workshops and things that involve other projects like photography and sewing and things in that avenue.”

“Our focus is to just be open to all youth and inclusive of all backgrounds, so we just try to advertise to folks the agriculture opportunities and the non-agriculture opportunities that we have for kids.”

The county fair is a “very traditional thing” for communities in Indiana, she said.

“In Indiana, it’s definitely something that a lot of counties have as a longtime tradition to either attend or show your animals in see people you haven’t seen in a while at the county fair,” Whiteford said. “It is important for the people in Indiana to have those events.”
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