MONTCALM TOWNSHIP — This year is shaping up to be full of positive changes for the Montcalm County 4-H Fair.
The biggest difference this year will be a new date for the annual fair.
The 4-H Fair has historically taken place the week of the Fourth of July, but this year festivities are scheduled for June 24-30 at the new fairgrounds located at the corner of M-91 and Peck Road just north of Greenville.
“We wanted to get off the Fourth of July week,” explained Pat Schuster, a longtime member of the fair board. “The position of our fair on the calendar has always been a challenge. If we go too early, we run into expo days at Michigan State University and kids just getting out of school. If we go too late, we run into the Ionia fair and Grand Rapids fair.”
Another factor in the date change was the carnival’s availability, according to Montcalm County 4-H Educator Pat Dignum.
“The carnival provides the large part of operating revenues, in addition to parking, which most folks do not realize,” Dignum said. “This will be a very challenging year for the youth to complete projects, especially livestock, and feel prepared for fair week. There will be a very short time frame between the end of school and the start of fair. That window of time is when most members commit many hours into finishing and fine tuning the results of their year-long learning.
“On the other hand, this creates an opportunity to offer additional programs for youth during the remainder of the summer,” she added. “I hope we see expanded use of the fairgrounds in this manner in addition to weekend rentals by affiliated agricultural groups.”
So far, expanded use of the fairgrounds seems promising. Schuster said the fairgrounds is booked almost every weekend from mid-May to late October with various activities, including numerous horse shows.
To house entries this second year at the new fairgrounds, construction is currently underway on a new exhibit building. Former 4-Her Larry Hubbert of Hubbert’s Home Improvement in Belding started work on the new building just after Christmas.
Plans for a new exhibit building were in the works, but fair board members didn’t expect it would become a reality so soon.
Local philanthropist Blanche Ash died last August and the Ash Foundation merged into the Greenville Area Community Foundation.
As a result, fair board members received Ash’s total fair pledge of $250,000, allowing them to complete the new exhibit building in time for this second year at the new fairground location.
“We are really excited about having that up for this year,” Schuster said. “It was a surprise to us.”
Schuster has new duties himself. After serving for six years as president of the fair board, he is now chairman of finance and fundraising.
Schuster turned over presidential duties to Mike McGonigal last November.
“It’s been really exciting,” said McGonigal of the rapid development of the new exhibit building.
“Basically we moved a five-year plan into a one-year plan. It was really nice to have the funds to go ahead and get it started and on its way.
We were truly in need of having that building. It very much is the jewel of the fairgrounds.”
McGonigal said fair board members and volunteers have accomplished a lot last year, but they still have a long way to go.
“Now it’s just a matter of utilizing that and trying to generate year-round business at the fairgrounds,” he said. “We’re very focused on family-friendly events out at the fairgrounds. We’re trying to transition from a small fairground to a year-round facility.”
The next priority for fair board members is to install power and water at the fair’s campground.
People currently have the opportunity to sponsor a campsite for $1,500 (which can be submitted in three payments of $500 each). Sponsors will get their name placed on the campsite and on the main fair donor board. Fair board members hope at least half of the 135 campsites will be sponsored.
Call Schuster at (616) 520-3669 for more information.
Upcoming Montcalm County 4-H events
• Feb. 24-25: Workshop registration open for vet science.
• Feb. 25-26: Workshop registration open for beef, sheep and swine.
• Feb. 27: Essays are due for the 4-H Mark of Excellence award. This year’s theme is “Because of 4-H, I Can …” The contest is open to 11- and 12-year-olds.
• March 3: Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) training 10 a.m. at Chippewa Hills High School, Remus. RSVP by March 1 by calling Mecosta County MSU Extension at (231) 592-0795.
• March 18-21: 4-H Capital Experience, a statewide conference for high school youths.
• April 14: 4-H pancake breakfast and benefit auction.
• April 20-21: State Horse Jamboree combines science with horses.
• April 21: Montcalm County rabbit and cavy show.
• June 24-30: Montcalm County 4-H Fair. This year’s theme is “Building a Better Tomorrow.” New classes for sheep exhibitors include a costume class for Cloverbuds and a lead style class with the exhibitor dressed to promote wool products with the animal shown at halter.
• 4-H clover vinyl window decals: Available for purchase in green or white. Cost is $3 each for two for $4. Proceeds go to the Burgess Lake 4-H Club and the Montcalm County fairgrounds. Call Jeni Williams at (616) 916-8121 for more information.
For more information about any of these events, call 4-H Educator Pat Dignum at (989) 831-7500 or visit www.msue.msu.edu/montcalm online.