Wanted: 4-H, fair newcomers for grant program

Sydney McCullough poses with her grand champion market lamb at last year's fair and rodeo. The fair board just launched a grant for new market exhibitors in market lamb and market chicken categories. 

In hopes of bringing more young people into 4-H and the annual county fair, the Montrose County Fair Board is offering two newcomers a boost: an animal to show and sell at the fair, plus other support.

“We’re pretty excited about it and hope it’ll bring kids back,” fair board member Jessica Homewood said.

Homewood, with fellow fair board member Charles Walker, is heading up the newly approved grant program. Through the program, the fair board is offering support for a market lamb project and a market chicken project.

Youths ages 8 to 18, who are first-time market exhibitors and Montrose County residents, are eligible to apply for the grant. Selection is based on need, willingness to learn and willingness to actively participate in 4-H.

“We are excited to give back to the community. Not only does the grant provide the member with the animal, but it also provides the food, supplies, and education necessary to have a successful market project,” Fair Board President Chris Cohick said in a news release.

Walker is donating a lamb for the grant program and Alicia Hutto is donating 10 chickens, from which the recipient will select three to show and sell. The recipient can keep the remaining birds.

The recipient of the lamb grant is to raise and show the lamb in its designated market class (determined by weight); the youth can then sell it during the junior livestock show. Shearing services are being donated by Casey Millsap.

Both young people selected for the grants will receive feed and supplies, plus fees will be paid by the fair board.

“We’re going to pay for all of that. Then they can sell their animal and keep that and, hopefully, be able to support their project the following year,” said Homewood.

“The only thing we ask is that they are able to house the animal correctly so the animal has a healthy lifestyle and makes it to the fair.”

Additionally, fair superintendents will be lending a hand to help the recipients in their first foray into the fair and sale.

“I know it’s kind of daunting for somebody. This is a first-time market exhibitor grant. It’s kind of scary to come into something new, but all our superintendents and the fair board are going to support these kids and get them going in the right direction,” Homewood also said.

The grant and support should help drive participation up, she also said. The pandemic caused last year’s fair to be held virtually, with limited categories in the show ring, before small audiences.

Although 4-H and fair participation remains strong in categories such as goats and hogs, more participation is welcome.

“I think the numbers are kind of on the lower side recently and we would like to see them increase,” Homewood said.

“We have a really good board right now, who are really into helping kids and growing new programs, just kind of getting back to the basics of what 4-H is. We’re hoping that will help bring some kids back or new ones in.”

The application deadline is Feb. 1. Visit montrosecountyfairandrodeo.com and click “Grant Program” from the horizontal list of options under the logo to apply, or call 970-964-2180.

“I’m really hoping it’s a big success,” Homewood said. “We already have people who want to donate animals next year. We are hoping for a normal year this year at fair and are really excited to hopefully see everyone again.

“We’re looking to start a lot of new, fun and ag-based events this year.”

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.

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