By Mary Heyl

The countdown to the Cattaraugus County Fair has begun! In less than two months, 4-H members from all over the county will be headed to the fairgrounds in Little Valley to showcase the animals they’ve been raising and the projects they’ve been working on throughout the year. Learn more about what goes into preparing for the fair and how you can get involved with 4H.

With over 300 members county-wide, the Cattaraugus County 4-H program is a great way for students to understand the importance of agriculture in their local community while learning about citizenship, healthy living, and leadership. According to 4-H educator, Abigail Luzier, about half the members are part of clubs that meet on a monthly or semi-monthly basis, with Allegany and Cattaraugus-Little Valley having the largest clubs. The other members in the county work individually and prepare their fair paperwork at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Center in Ellicottville.

Currently, the CCE Center is putting together the fair book, which includes the full schedule of the judging and live animal auctions for fair week, which takes place during the first week of August.

Students who are showing beef cattle and steer have already been preparing for the fair; some of these students have been raising their animals for one or two years, according to Luzier. Those who plan to show small animals such as pigs, sheep and goats have been raising their animals since this spring, and those who are showing chickens and turkey are getting their animals now to prepare for fair week.

Although the first day of the Cattaraugus County Fair is officially Monday, July 31, 4-H members get started much sooner! Judging of exhibits in the Youth Building takes place on Saturday, July 29 and the animals move in on Sunday, July 30. Many students stay at the fair the whole week with their families, taking advantage of the fairground’s camping facilities and RV hookups. Students who are participating in the market sale with their animals stay until Sunday, Aug. 6 when the animals are released.

In addition to learning about agriculture and livestock, the 4-H program fosters a love of creativity.

Luzier explained that craft night at the CCE Center is a popular night that lots of members look forward to. Craft night meets on the second Thursday of each month from 6 to 8 p.m., and members get together for activities such as grain mosaics, sewing crafts and river rock painting. This month’s meeting on June 8 focused on painting and repurposing glass jars for gifts, décor and more!

This spring, Cattaraugus County 4-H introduced the new Shooting Sports Program. Certified instructors

James Snider and Katie Benatovich have joined the 4-H trained archery instructors team and are excited to be teaching members the fun and challenge of this great sport.

Upcoming events include the Horse Schooling Show at the Cattaraugus County Fairgrounds from June 16th through 18th and the Open Swine Show at the fairgrounds on June 17th . On June 24, 4-H members can participate in the Alpaca Clinic at BearKat Alpacas, an alpaca farm just seven miles outside of Ellicottville in Humphrey. There, members can earn an education credit by learning about the origin of alpacas, their nutrition, digestion and more.

From showing livestock to making crafts to learning about area farms, there are so many ways to participate in 4-H! Luzier emphasized that new members can join anytime through their open enrollment policy. Simply call the CCE Center at (716)699-2377 or stop in to the center, which is located at 28 Parkside Drive in Ellicottville. To learn more, visit www.cattaraugus.cce.cornell.edu and follow Cattaraugus County 4-H on Facebook.