Ky. State Fair: A chance to come together in commonwealth

Published 4:10 am Wednesday, August 15, 2018

As a people who brim with pride for our state, each year Kentuckians of all backgrounds have an opportunity to embrace one of the Commonwealth’s time-honored traditions: the Kentucky State Fair.

Growing up as a farm kid in Scott County, I would count down the days until I visited with Freddy Farm Bureau, watched livestock shows, and chowed down on a Kentucky Pork Producers sandwich. The 114th Kentucky State Fair is just around the corner, and I invite you and your families to celebrate this timeless tradition with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) from August 16-26 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville.

Support of agriculture at the state fair is stronger than ever since David Beck was named as the new Kentucky State Fair Board President and CEO. The former Executive Vice President of Kentucky Farm Bureau, David brings more than 40 years of leadership in agriculture and governmental affairs. He and his team are focused on providing a unique, individualized experience for each fair goer. I am grateful for the energy David is bringing to his position and applaud the Kentucky State Fair Board, led by Chairman Dr. Mark Lynn, for selecting such a capable and qualified individual to lead the organization.

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A game changer at the upcoming state fair is the first-ever AgLand. Brought to you by Kentucky’s Farm Families, AgLand is more than an acre of space dedicated to agriculture. This family-friendly, interactive space will highlight more than a dozen of Kentucky’s commodity groups. Time-honored traditions are on display with Kentucky agricultural staples like Kentucky 4-H and Kentucky FFA exhibits. AgLand also features hands-on experiences for children with the Discovery Farm and farm safety demonstrations. All the while, share your AgLand experience with us using #KyAg365 to show your friends and families how Kentucky agriculture brings people together.

If you’re like me, one of the big draws to the state fair is the food. Be sure to visit the Great Kentucky Cook Out Tent, where you can support Kentucky’s hard-working farm families. Many Kentucky Proud products are available, and you should make it your personal mission to indulge in them all. Enjoy a catfish sandwich, a hamburger, or a scoop of ice cream (or all three!), and wash it down with a cool, refreshing glass of milk.

For some fairgoers, the state fair may be your first exposure to agriculture. I encourage you to seize this opportunity to learn about the industry that affects every Kentuckian 365 days a year. Seasoned state fair attendees like me are looking for opportunities to engage with you and have a conversation about how food gets from the farm gate to the dinner plate. So be sure to make it a priority to visit some of the many show rings, browse the horticulture exhibits, and purchase some local agricultural products to take home.

As you visit the fair, you will see KDA staff and the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service working hard throughout the Kentucky Expo Center to bring the best of agriculture to the state fair. KDA team members perform a wide range of responsibilities, helping coordinate the livestock shows, making sure farm animals are free of disease, and inspecting amusement rides. We are there to ensure you have a good experience, so if you see a team member and you need something, do not hesitate to ask.

Although the state fair has changed over time, it presents a great opportunity to push back against the narrative that we are so divided as a state and nation. From the food tents to the show ring, Kentuckians set aside their differences and unite to celebrate our Commonwealth. Whether you are a farm kid venturing to Louisville for a competition or an urbanite looking to snack on some local food, the state fair brings together Kentuckians from all backgrounds and lifestyles. I hope you can join us in the statewide celebration of Kentucky.

Ryan Quarles serves as Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture.