By Jim Bloch
The 84th annual St. Clair County 4-H and Youth Fair charged out of the gate on Monday, July 19 and runs full bore through Saturday, July 24th.
Animals — raised by around 800 county young people — collectively constitute the heart of the fair. Look for beef and dairy cows, dogs, goats, sheep, horses, llamas and alpacas, poultry, pigeons, rabbits, sheep and swine displayed in variety of barns and tents scattered around the grounds of Goodells County Park.
“This is what I get to do all day long,” said a 4-H mom in the baby animal tent. “Stand here and hold a baby goat.”
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The middle barn was packed with 4-H projects of almost unimaginable diversity — food prep, cake decorating, photography, sewing, hunting and wildlife, vegetable gardening, crops, flower gardening, folk patterns, natural resources, science and technology, bee keeping, fiber and more.
Taken together, the exhibits and the work that went into them embody the organization four H’s — head, heart, hands and health.
Last summer during the peak of the pandemic, the fair went virtual. Its 200 exhibits were impressive, but represented a 75 percent decline from 2019.
In terms of square footage, the Skerbeck Family Carnival, based in Escanaba, is the centerpiece of the fair. The Skerbecks hold nothing back when it comes to the 4-H fair. All of the company’s top flight rides rim the midway, including the Fire Ball, in which customers in a train speed around the interior of a giant wheel that dwarfs the Ferris wheel, and Techno Power, in which riders in seats at the ends of giant arms rise off the deck as the whole ride spins in whirl of music and 10,000 lights. Longtime fan favorites dot the interior of the midway, such as Tilt-a-Whirl, Zero Gravity and Gravitron. Family rides designed for younger children remain popular, including the Berry-go-Round and Cuckoo Haus.
Carney cuisine is always one of the biggest draws at the fair and Skerbeck’s corndogs, elephant ears, deep fried Oreos, cotton candy and grilled sausages are augmented by a number of independent vendors peddling Mexican food, steak tips, ice cream, hamburgers and kettle corn.
The second day of the fair was interrupted by a brief, torrential downpour in the late afternoon, sending fairgoers scurrying into the nearest barns and tents. The storm did not dampen attendance. At 7 p.m., the line of cars to park extended the length of the big north parking lot all the way to Lapeer Road.
Each night of the fair features a main event at 7 p.m.. On Monday, it was the Flying Star Rodeo; on Tuesday, monster trucks; on Wednesday, the Crazy Chaotic Racing Derby; on Thursday, the tractor and truck pull takes center stage; on Friday, bump and run; on closing night, Figure 8 racing.
The county park is located at 7201 Lapeer Road, Goodells, MI 48027. Once you pay your admission fee, all exhibits and events — not including the carnival and food — are free. Walk-in children eight and under are free; all others pay $9. Daily admission for a car and all the people in it is $25.
Jim Bloch is a freelance writer based in St. Clair, Michigan. Contact him at email@example.com.