GOSHEN — It’s the first day of the nine-day Elkhart County 4-H Fair, but it’ll probably be more a day for cold drinks than for traditional deep-fried fair foods.
While the weather forecasts later in the fair look good for deep-fried or grilled goodies, the National Weather Service predicts highs in the 90s and a heat index between 100 and 105 degrees for Friday, July 19, so if you head to the opening of the fair, pick up a map and pay close attention to the locations of drinking fountains and air-conditioned buildings.
The heat forecast caused the senior queen contest to move to Fairfield High School this morning and cheerleading contest to move from the grandstands to Goshen High School this afternoon, but most other events will go on as planned.
As the day wears on, an umbrella may be in order, too. The forecast calls for a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon, and a likelihood of showers and storms Friday night.
After the front moves through, the next several days should see a reduced chance of precipitation, with highs in the mid-80s Saturday and the lower 80s after that, according to the National Weather Service.
Opening day is one of the senior citizens’ days, and it’s also the best fair day in the state for veterans, according to Gary Whitehead, retired veterans service officer for the county. “We’re the only fair in the state that honors our veterans,” Whitehead said. Even the state fair gives only reduced ticket prices to veterans, whereas the Elkhart County 4-H Fair gives free admission to veterans and a special recognition program at 8:30 a.m. This year, the first 50 veterans in the fair will get a free pancake and sausage breakfast, Whitehead said.
Although the fair features livestock and tractor exhibits and this year’s focus on popcorn, Friday gets a special focus on agriculture.
Jean Williams, who organizes Ag Day for the fair board, said that a steamy start isn’t great, but she’s not too worried about its impact on Ag Day. “We’re farmers and we’re used to coping with that,” she said.
It’s the fourth year for Ag Day, and “It changes a tiny bit each year. This year it’s the afternoon,” and runs until 8 p.m., to offer more people a chance to interact with vendors and check out the tractors in Heritage Park.
“The Ag Day auction is the big thing and the big change,” Williams said. It’s a charity auction to benefit the Seed to Feed program, which has local farmers providing food for Church Community Services to distribute throughout Elkhart County.
Following the auction at 4:30 p.m., Jimtown country performer Zach Dubois will take the park stage and perform at 5.