HEMPSTEAD, TX- The purpose of the Waller County Fair and Rodeo is simple: to provide an exhibition for the communities in the area while also showcasing and giving back to the youth of the county.
There are some traditional county fair activities such as the rodeo, cattle shows, carnival and concerts, but the Waller County Fair Association also has some hidden gems that form a big part of the county fair’s identity.
From the Junior Fair Board to Ag Voyage and the Barnyard Buddies to Creative Living, each step of these decorative aspects of the annual Expo is vital to the growth and development of young people while also providing an opportunity for others who wish to be a part of the Faire and rodeo.
“Creative Living is important because it encourages hands-on learning of life skills that our young people will need later to become productive adults,” said Melissa Hegemeyer, Chair of Creative Living. “It’s so important because with the bombardment of technology, electronic games and other innovations, even the most basic life skills tend to be sidelined.”
Located in the Barbara Carpenter Building, Creative Living is home to non-animal exhibits such as Baked Goods, Favorite Recipes, Decorated Confections, Canned Food, Constructive Clothing and Accessories, Needlework, Creative Arts and Crafts, Horticulture, Photography, Fine Art, Collective Hobbies, and Quilts.
“In the open division, exhibitors range from preschool (ages 3+) to golden life (62+), so we welcome all ages,” said Hegemeyer. “Our auction department is for 4H and FFA participants. The youth spend many hours creating marketable items that are judged and the winners in each age group make it to the Junior Livestock Auction.
“It is very important for us to continue to encourage our youth to learn the arts and crafts that make up family traditions. I have been a 4H Club Manager for 12 years and now a part of the Creative Living building for 20 years which makes me so proud that we continue to provide an environment that promotes the importance of hands-on learning and valuable life skills that are important to the club that’s how important Waller County youth are.”
Barnyard Buddies is now in its eighth year and will be held on Wednesday 28th September from 9am to 1pm. Barnyard Buddies offers special needs students in Waller County the opportunity to enjoy a day at the fair.
“It’s just great to see the smiles on their faces and they’re laughing and enjoying themselves,” said Julie Abke, the Junior Fair Board Chair who oversees the Barnyard Buddies. “They appreciate it and they like it.”
The same goes for those involved in Ag Voyage, a way to educate youth about the origins of their food sources and the importance of farming. There are many children in the school system who are unable to show animals, so Ag Voyage gives them the opportunity to understand the importance of farming.
“Since the show is all about education, we thought it would be nice to have an education committee,” said Kristy Hyatt, committee chair. “We will teach the children different cuts of meat, where the cotton comes from or what grain is used for food.”
Young exhibitors are part of the foundation of a county fair, but there’s a lot more to Waller County than that. The Fair Association also works closely with teenagers who are part of the Junior Fair Board, a group of juniors and seniors who work with the Waller County Fair Board to help run the fair and other related events. There are 38 young people this year.
“The hope is that they’ll raise money to hopefully go to school, but we also want to help mentor them and get them to come back when they’re a little older and run the fair,” Linda said Randall, Co-Chair of the Youth Fair Board. “When the Junior Fair Board Chair and I started, we started doing cattle shows.
“Last year we were able to give almost $40,000 in scholarships where they raised their own money and they had these cattle shows and other events to raise money for those scholarships.”
All money earned by the Junior Fair Board is returned in scholarship dollars. It’s also important because the younger board members handle all the chores needed to run an event the size of the Waller County Fair and Waller Rodeo.
From setting up and preparing the exhibition grounds for the exhibition to assisting with dismantling after the event, there are many things to do.
“I’m here to see the kids succeed,” Randall said. “I want to help these kids learn the livestock aspect and see how the livestock industry becomes as successful as possible, and I want these kids to be able to come back and help.
“I am here to help these children give back and watch them grow. That means the world to me.”
Courtesy of twistedrodeo.com