SACRAMENTO — 4-H and FFA members throughout the Golden State are gearing up to face big-league competition at the California State Fair on July 14-30.
Entrants at the Sacramento County Fair over the Memorial Day weekend were offered the added benefit of doing a dry run at the facility where the state fair is held — Cal Expo.
FFA member Joshua Vargas of Elk Grove, Calif., said he knew of a few students at the county event who planned to go on to the state fair. For them, the competitions at the smaller gathering were an opportunity to know where to improve.
“The judges will tell you what to work on and what they want to see more of,” he said.
More than 4,000 animals are entered in youth and local divisions at the state fair each year. Exhibits in the fair’s livestock building and adjacent shaded stalls are shown in shifts, and the fair offers showmanship awards and prizes in different classes for youths.
Agriculture will again take center stage at the 164th state fair, whose theme this year is “Come One, Come All!”
One of the most popular destinations for attendees is the 34-year-old farm, where a local chef will offer cooking demonstrations with locally grown produce. Other farm features will include a daily farmers’ market, an aquaculture exhibit, a hydroponic greenhouse and an insect pavilion.
In addition, an exhibit called Farmyard Follies will feature goats, sheep, llamas and a spotted donkey from the Great American Petting Zoo, offering fairgoers a chance to learn about animals and see them up close.
Fair-related festivities kicked off June 22 with the State Fair Gala at Cal Expo, which raises funds for the Friends of the California State Fair Student Scholarship Fund.
Fair officials presented this year’s Agriculturalist of the Year award to Tom Nassif, chief executive officer of Western Growers, for highlighting the need for immigration reform and pushing for a new specialty-crop title in the Farm Bill.
Among other ag-related honorees, Paul Draper of the Cupertino-based Ridge Vineyards received the Wine Lifetime Achievement Award and Dutton Ranch Vineyards in Sebastopol received the Vineyard of the Year Award.
That morning, fair chief executive officer Rick Pickering and local dignitaries honored the Best of Show winners for the Commercial Wine, Cheese, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Commercial Beer competition in front of the state Capitol.
For more details on activities, visit the fair’s website, http://www.castatefair.org/ .