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Entertaining and educational: There's lots to learn at the Appalachian Fair

Amanda J. Vicars • Aug 14, 2013 at 8:18 PM

The word “fair” in today's Southern society is synonymous with carnival rides, prize-winning games, concerts, and an assortment of deep fried foods and sugary confections to tempt every taste bud. What most people don't realize, however, is that fairs began (and continue) as a means to educate — as well entertain — attendees.

The Appalachian Fair in Gray, which opens Aug. 19 and runs through Aug. 24, is no exception. It will feature educational exhibits and hands-on activities for fairgoers of all ages. As a virtual feast for the mind as well as the senses, the 2013 Appalachian Fair will provide educational expositions and shows of achievement to every local citizen, in particular the youth.

There will be school tours for third-grade children on the fairgrounds, Aug. 20-22, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“We have about 1,800 kids coming this year,” Appalachian Fair manager Phil Booher said. “The school tours began three years ago with about 1,000 kids. Now we're up to 1,800.”

Booher said teachers really love this part of the fair's youth outreach program because it coincides with kids' in-class education.

“We have 12 different educational stations that correspond with the teachers' curriculum,” Booher said. “A station can be anything from bees to cattle to crops to the police group presenting an educational talk with the kids.

“[The kids] can choose six different stations during that time. Stations will be in the barns, our Farm and Home Building, and the 4-H Building,” he added.

Other educational sites of interest at the Appalachian Fair include: a wildlife area with regional species of fish, snakes, raccoons, possums, squirrels and more handled by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA); an herb garden, which Booher said has various kinds of herbs presently utilized in the area along with herbs used in the past; the Farm and Home Museum; and the 4-H, FFA, FCCLA and Career and Technology (CTE) exhibits.

“The Farm and Home Museum consists of old farming equipment and household items, such as antique washing machines and cars,” Booher said. “Craftsmen such as a blacksmith, a knifesmith, quilters and whittlers will perform demonstrations for the viewing public to see how things used to be.”

Educational exhibits in the fair's 4-H Building will show junior and senior high school member entries in categories such as eggs, field crops, food preparation, clothing, arts and crafts, entomology and photography. The FFA and FCCLA buildings will, likewise, host entries of similar classification.

“It all has to do with agriculture and home economics,” Booher explained.

The CTE exhibits provide area high schoolers the opportunity to compete in highly-specialized, skill-related divisions like computer-aided drafting, electricity, autobody collision repair technology, cosmetology, criminal justice, welding and masonry. Competition involves illustrations and judging throughout the entire week.

“We have approximately 12 to 15 of our local high schools competing in this show,” Booher said. “Some of the things they do are just amazing and many of them win national contests.”

The fair also hosts cattle, sheep and wool shows, and offers an art department where Booher said people of all ages can “show off their talent.”

The most popular educational aspect of the fair, however, remains one of the more rudimentary diversions for children and “a favorite for everyone:” the barnyard nursery.

“It's very educational for kids,” Booher said with a smile, explaining that to be able to learn about farm animals through sight and touch is important.

“A lot of kids don't have that opportunity anymore,” he stressed.

As far as the fair itself goes, Booher said “it was started as a competition and as an educational program to give the community and people in the cities a glimpse of farm life.”

Education lies at the foundation of the fair and so it remains. The tradition continues.

For more information on the Appalachian Fair or for a schedule of events, visit the website at http://www.appalachianfair.com or call 423-477-3211.

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