Sunday August 19, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Try to imagine a world run by teenagers.

The more than 1,000 folks who attended the 4H Fair Saturday don't have to imagine: They experienced it.

Less than a dozen teens organized, rais ed funds, booked entertainment and tents, planned the layout of the fair and set up the pens and tents.

It was an agricultural fair for young people produced by young people. They even book ed Pittsfield's Youth Alive group to provide the entertainment.

"This is their gig," said Angelica Paredes, UMass Extension Educator and adviser to the local 4H group. "And they do an excellent job. The adults are only here to do the things they can't do, like write the checks."

There were about 150 farm animals, including goats, chickens, rabbits, cows, horses, ducks and sheep on display. There were also competitions in baking, sewing, and the arts.

And the weather was perfect for both the two-leggers and the four-leggers.

The object, Paredes said, is to give kids a chance to show off the hard work they put in all year long raising their livestock and vegetation.

And for the young organizers, its all about the lessons of life.

"It's a leadership experience for these kids," Paredes said. "And they do it to give all these other kids a place to exhibit all their hard work."

Organizing for the next fair begins right after this year's fair ends. The cost of the fair, roughly $10,000, is paid for strictly through fundraisers the 4H members conduct throughout the year.

Aliza Ahlen, 18, a senior at Taconic High School, is the chairperson of the young 4H committee. She raises chickens and fantail pigeons

"The adults literally just sit there -- it's us kids that do all the stuff," Ahlen said. "It's all our ideas and our manpower."

This year, for the first time, a shuttle bus was provided for families in Pittsfield who had no other way to get to the 4H fairgrounds on the outskirts of town on Holmes Road.

Daniel Epe, 6, prepares his 8-month-old heifer for judging at the 4-H fair in Pittsfield on Saturday.
Daniel Epe, 6, prepares his 8-month-old heifer for judging at the 4-H fair in Pittsfield on Saturday. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

Ahlen noted that state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier donated part of the cost of the shuttle service. The shuttle provided an opportunity for some families who rarely have the occasion to become acquainted with the agricultural experience and farm animals.

According to 4H volunteer Scott Robinson, who is also the president of the board that owns the fairgrounds, this is the 72nd annual 4H Fair in Pittsfield, making it the longest continuous 4H Fair in the U.S.

One of his favorite parts of the fair is watching the hay ride.

"You see the kids on there having a good time, but the smiles on some of the parents' faces are bigger than the smiles on their kids," Robinson said.

To reach Scott Stafford:
sstafford@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6241.
On Twitter: @BE_SStafford