Polk County Youth Fair Starts Week With Horses And Hogs
by James Coulter
For the past four months, Reagan Durden, 11, has been raising her horse, Whiskey, a 13-year-old Appaloosa. Her horse was skittish at first, but during that time, the two have since formed a trusting bond with one another.
Their trust was put to the test when they arrived at the opening day for the Polk County Youth Fair at the Polk County Agriculture Complex on Saturday morning. Wearing her pink jumpsuit and matching helmet, Reagan rode upon Whiskey into Hayman Arena to run a few laps during the opening horse show.
In the end, the two won a few ribbons in the categories for grooming, conditioning, and speed. As someone who has been within the Polk County 4H for the past six years, Reagan attributes the lessons she has learned through it to her success that morning.
“It feels good winning them,” Reagan said. “I had a fun day here, [and] I enjoyed riding.”
Reagan was one of hundreds of students from across Polk County enrolled in 4H Clubs, Future Farmers of America (FFA), and Future Homemakers of America (FHA) to compete within this year’s Polk County Youth Fair. The annual event started this Saturday and will continue on through the week with more shows, exhibits, and contests.
The opening day on Saturday drew in hundreds of youth and their animals to showcase at the event, with the horse show on Saturday being the very first one. Others animals on display that day included rabbits, steers, and hogs.
Reagan’s older brother, Chase, 15, was also showcasing his own animal, a 269-pound pig named Barbie-Q, during that week’s event, with the intention of entering her into the hog show the very next day.
When he first received her last August, she only weighed eight pounds. Several months of feeding her and taking care of her allowed her to grow and gain weight into the large beauty she is today.
“Giving her water is the hardest part,” Chase said. “She always breaks the automatic water system, and we have to give her a lot of feed.”
Chase has been with Future Farmers of America (FFA) for the past two years, and has been participating within the annual event since then. Being able to learn more about animals and taking care of him keeps him coming back time and again.
“I keep coming back for the experience,” he said. “I learned a lot about keeping up with animals, learn how to take care of animals. [It’s] just the experience to have fun.”
Their mother, Stephanie, has been supervising her family with their 4H and FFA endeavors collectively for the past eight years. During that time, they have also been attending the youth fair, where they get to congregate and mingle with likeminded animal lovers while gaining valuable life experience, she explained.
“What we love about 4H is just being able to meet new wholesome families and new people, [and] learning new things about agriculture and animals,” she said. “We love all the fun things it has to offer…Even if we don’t participate, we love to come and see other kids participate in different things.”
Since 1947, The Annual Polk County Youth Fair has been allowing county youth to gain valuable agricultural skills by learning how to raise livestock, bring them to market, and compete with one another. Though the hard work and effort of more than 200 volunteers, the fair helps, according to a press release, in “serving to promote the educational development of the youth of the county.”
“Not only are these young exhibitors learning to care for and prepare their projects, they are learning to take responsibility for their project and see it through to the end,” said Maria Wetherington, board of directors member. “The Youth Fair has created an atmosphere which appeals to the interest of spectators and others who give personal and financial support to the Fair.”
The Polk County Youth Fair will be hosted from now until February 1 at the Polk County Agriculture Complex, located at 1702 US-17, Bartow, FL 33830. For a schedule of events, visit their website at: http://www.pcyf.net/