GOSHEN — Whether you've never been to the Elkhart County 4-H Fair or you've attended the fair all your life, you'll find there's more to take in than anybody can accomplish during the nine-day event.
“There's more to see this year,” said Tim Graber, this year's president of the fair board.
“It's every part of the community coming together to make this work,” he said.
Of course there are rides, food, tractors — a bigger display this year than ever before — and livestock, from horses (many different kinds in many different places) to llamas to poultry to dogs and cats.
You'll also find elephants this year, and tractors aren't the only things on wheels. There's a major demolition derby and a hugely popular tractor and truck pull.
There are sporting events and health screenings, children's activities to crafts, cooking to magic, rockets to ventriloquists.
Oh, and did we mention concerts?
“It's one of the better concert lineups we've had,” said Graber. Reserved seats for Hunter Hayes and Florida Georgia Line sold out, but grandstand seats are free for all shows and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Elkhart Truth has details on all the major concerts, the full schedule and many of the major items you can see from July 19-27. Before you get to that, though, the list below may teach you a few things you didn't know about the fair. We put them together from our own reporting, information from the fair office and from the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service in Elkhart County.
Ÿ While it's not the largest agricultural exposition in the country, it's the second-largest 4-H county fair in the nation. It's also larger than some state fairs, in terms of attendance.
Ÿ If you pass through the gates, you're in good company. Roughly 250,000 people (depending on the weather) attend the fair during its nine-day run each year.
Ÿ The amount of organization that goes into this fair is huge. If all the volunteers were paid minimum wage, it would cost at least $1.3 million. If one person did all the volunteer work, it would take him 85 years.
Ÿ There are more than 90 shows of various types performed during the course of the fair.
Ÿ It takes a ton of feed just to supply the needs of the 4-H poultry barn during the fair.
Ÿ More than 3,000 4-H animals are on display at the fair each year. That doesn't count animal acts, the professional draft horse teams, the harness racing horses or animals brought in for open shows (which are open to non-4-H members).
Ÿ It takes a lot of juice to power the event. In 2011, they went through 372,000 kilowatt hours of electricity at a cost of $52,000.
Ÿ The fairgrounds cover 384 acres, though only about half of that is in use these days for the event itself and for parking. The fair plans to develop the recently purchased land over the next several years. The first phase is to add a new bridge and road, and to create dedicated tram routes for parking trams to vastly improve the traffic congestion, which can be especially bad after popular concerts.
Ÿ Most years, there are more 4-H photography exhibits entered at this fair than at the Indiana State Fair.
Ÿ The first agricultural exposition in Elkhart County happened in 1851, but that event disbanded in 1893. A new fair started in 1908 at the current fairgrounds, but 4-H left that fair in the 1940s and moved to Elkhart. The fair in its form today has been running since 1955.