When you think of foods at your county fair or the Arkansas State Fair, you may envision bright lights and rides, corn dogs, or sugar induced highs from cotton candy.
Photography by Brandon Markin at the Dunbar Community Garden, Little Rock
[dropcap]Historically[/dropcap], county and state fairs originated as a series of competitions for blue ribbons showing the best in agriculture, livestock or food. The competition involves families who expand their knowledge through local 4-H clubs. Participants are hands on, tuned in and present, ensuring their passions are passed on to the next generation.
Ruth (center), mother, Searcy
Emma (left), age 18, Senior at Harding Academy
Daniel (right), age 15, sophomore at Harding Academy
The Williams’ are a close knit team of five kids, three of whom have flown the coop but all have been involved in 4-H, following in mom’s footsteps. They have accumulated an impressive collection of ribbons as all began their 4-H participation at the age of 5. Emma and Daniel (pictured) used to enter cows and sheep into the competitions, but have moved toward baked goods – namely cookies and breads. Emma enthusiastically says, “I love learning all of this. People don’t know how to cook anymore.” She makes a valid point, and that is one of the things that is so great about the fair today – you can engage your senses in traditional, real food, where hard work and time is poured into the mouthwatering results.
7th Grade at Harmony Grove Jr. High
Kallyn Sossamon exhibits a versatile skill set and a fiery demeanor chock full of moxie. She won the Poultry Showmanship, Junior Division at the Saline County Fair in Benton. This was her first year entering this competition. She also won “Best in Show” in ceramics. Kallyn will continue competing at the state fair with ceramics as well as with her beloved chickens. While she also bakes pies and ‘cans’, working with poultry is her primary 4-H project. “…Until Olivia sticks her beak in my mouth,” she says after Olivia pecks her, “… she loves me.”
Junior at Southwest Christian Academy
Zac Mason is seasoned and skilled when it comes to animal husbandry. He has worked with a little bit of everything “besides cows”. It is evident that Zac really goes ‘whole hog’ with his projects. This year he won Senior Showmanship at the Saline County Fair in Benton for his pig, goat, lamb and rabbit. He will go on to the Arkansas State Fair with his goats, lambs and pigs. Zac dotes on the care of swine, his personal favorite, saying, “They are unpredictable, entertaining and very smart.” When observed with his goat, Buddy, Zac proves to be no greenhorn handling him with a gentle yet confident ease.
Terry Sue Satkowski
North Little Rock
For 16 years, Sue has been entering all contests in special baking. This year she received the Gold Medal Baked Cookie award at the Saline County Fair. Sue enjoys “thinking outside of the box” and coming up with a recipe that not everyone has heard of, or using an unexpected ingredient. Grits is a particular favorite ingredient of hers to work with, even when baking. Her shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate, will be entered into the baking contest during this month’s Arkansas State Fair.
Prairie Grove native Karol Zoeller has been entering her pies in the Arkansas State Fair since 1992. Her savory recipe for this year’s pie contest sounds simply sinful – pecan, Macadamia, buttermilk, and chocolate chip. Each year for the fair’s pie baking contests a category is chosen; this year’s is nut. Bakers must come up with their own authentic recipe – no pulling from Pinterest here. The contestants can use any combination of ingredients they want, as long as it represents the chosen category and must be original. When asked about her favorite part of this process, Karol says, “I love the initial task of creating and coming up with the new recipe.” She also enjoys the rich social scene. “Over the years there have been many of the same contestants who return for the love of the ‘sport’, so it is refreshing to see different folks, especially children from schools who are in the home economics program.” Karol finds joy in witnessing these fresh young faces who participate and win – perhaps igniting a new passion or hobby, such as it did for her.
Freshman, Home schooled
Andrew Bartle is a member of the Saline County 4-H. His main project is Citizenship Achievement. During the Saline County Fair this year, he proved to be a hive of activity – winning the Fair Spirit Award, and taking on the role of the Saline County Fair Ambassador. He works with beekeeping, chickens and canning – beekeeping is his personal favorite. Andrew notes, “The bees are smoked to make them docile before opening the hive, and you have a small window to do this.” Effectively executed, Andrew has to make quick yet smooth work. Of course I had to ask how often he has been stung; to which in response he implies more than just a few times. “It doesn’t bother me anymore,” he says. Offering a piece of advice, Bartle recommends to “never try to pull the stinger out with your fingers, which risks pushing it even deeper.” He simply takes the edge of his knife and scrapes it off in a sideways motion, then carries on. Using a knife is not advised for the rest of us.
age 16, Junior at
Perryville High School
Gavin (right), age 8, 3rd grade
Gage (left), Age 7, 1st grade
One of this year’s Saline County Fair Ambassadors, Lily earned the Poultry Showmanship Award among others. A 4-H member, her main project is agriculture. Holding her duck, Spot, Lily says, “We name the animals after we figure out their personalities.”She has two other call ducks, Morticia and Gomez Adams. Her cousins, Gavin and Gage, are also 4-H members and specialize in waterfowl and rabbits. Gavin is holding his rabbit, Wendy, and Gage is holding his chicken, Chicky Lady Fluffy Butt.