Opinion Editorial: Hey Kentucky, let’s meet at the State Fair
Opinion submission by Commissioner of Agriculture Dr. Ryan Quarles
FRANKFORT (Aug. 1, 2023) – I’m excited to once again be able to join Kentucky residents for the Kentucky State Fair, Aug. 17-27 at the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville. It’s the residents of Kentucky who make it special each year. And I can’t wait to see you again.
It’s my favorite time of the year. Why? Because it’s the best showcase for Kentucky agriculture. It’s been called “agriculture’s family reunion.” The state fair represents a chance to experience some of the sights (and smells) of Kentucky agriculture.
More and more Kentuckians are removed from farm living than ever before. The fair is an opportunity to connect with families who are still carrying on the farming traditions that helped build our great state. It’s also a chance to reconnect agriculture to those who used to live it and breathe it and introduce it to those who never had the opportunity to experience it firsthand.
Now in its 119th year, the Kentucky State Fair is one of our state’s oldest events, one that truly embodies the best of Kentucky. The state fair presents an opportunity to unify as one, bringing our rural and urban communities together. As one, we can celebrate the four “F”s that makes Kentucky great: farming, family, food, and fellowship.
In the South Wing, AgLand, with more than an acre of agriculture exhibits, welcomes each person to get better educated about the basics – and the science – behind agriculture. The future of farming and agribusiness is also on display with exhibits from 4-H and FFA members. I was a member of both youth organizations while growing up as a farm kid from Scott County, and I have many fond memories of my time in these organizations.
4-H members share their skills and compete for champion honors. You can see county grand champion projects competing for state titles in Cloverville. Kentucky FFA exhibits the best projects from 145 chapters across the state.
Outside the entrance to AgLand in the South Wing A Lobby, you can watch high school cooking teams competing for full-ride college scholarships during the Farm-to-School Junior Chef State Tournament on the Farm to Fair Cooking Stage. Junior Chef is a Kentucky Department of Agriculture program that enables students to learn food handling and preparation skills while cooking dishes using as many fresh, local Kentucky Proud foods as possible.
You can enjoy many of our Kentucky Proud foods when the state fair kicks off Thursday, Aug. 17 at the annual Commodity Breakfast inside the Kentucky Proud Cookout Tent at Parking Lot A outside of South Wing Lobby B. Enjoy a free breakfast buffet of delicious Kentucky Proud food items from our farm families.
Although it’s a crowd favorite, the state fair is more than delicious food. It’s also the highlight of the livestock show season in Kentucky, allowing producers to compete for prizes and bragging rights. Drop by Broadbent Arena and take a look at these dedicated young people working with their farm animals.
On Saturday, Aug. 19 make sure to catch one of my favorite state fair events, the annual largest pumpkin and watermelon contest in the Harold Workman North Wing Lobby. Once again, I will serve as master of ceremonies. Last year’s humongous pumpkin weighed an amazing 1,508.2 pounds, and the biggest watermelon was a 248.8-pound whopper.
Also happening on Aug. 19 is the debut of a new experience, Beerfest, in partnership with Louisville Ale Trail. This event will invite fairgoers ages 21 and older to sample some of the best beer from up to 20 different craft breweries that call Kentucky home.
And you can’t think about the Kentucky State Fair, without thinking about music. Each evening, free concerts are offered for fairgoers, including one of my personal favorites, The Oak Ridge Boys, who will perform for the 48th time.
This year’s theme, “Summer Summed Up,” capsulizes on the fair being a signature summer event and one of the most attended and most affordable. From popular music concerts to gourmet chef demonstrations to, of course, the incredible horse shows and the parade of livestock champions, hundreds of thousands enjoy the state fair each year.
This will be my eighth and final state fair as your agriculture commissioner, so please join me in Louisville and make the 2023 edition the best ever! I look forwarding to visiting with all Kentuckians – hopefully you, too – at this year’s Kentucky State Fair.
For full details and tickets, visit www.KyStateFair.org.Ryan Quarles, a Republican, serves as Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture