Every year, the students in the Kenai Peninsula 4-H program show off and auction the livestock they’ve been raising all year to the highest bidder. For years, it’s been at the Kenai Peninsula Fair, which takes places in mid-August in Ninilchik.
But this year, it’s moving to its own Agriculture Expo at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. Scheduled for August 6–8, the fair will feature the regular livestock auction as well as a horse show and variety of agriculture-focused workshops.
Cassy Rankin, the director of the Kenai Peninsula 4-H program, says the board members for 4-H and Junior Market Livestock, superintendents, parents and volunteers have been thinking about starting an agriculture-focused event on the central peninsula for some time. Then COVID-19 cancelled events all through last year and provided the impetus to pursue their own exposition.
"What we had seen in 2020 was such a need for knowledge about agriculture," she said. "People were really interested in how to garden, raise chickens, raise swine, how to start a little farm, and so we got really excited about the possibility of maybe this is the time."
Pulling away from the fair was a hard decision, she says. For now, 4-H is trying the event out just for this year. If it goes well, they may consider continuing it.
On August 6, the shows start off at 9 a.m. with small livestock, including rabbits and poultry, followed by the large livestock shows at 11. The auction check-in is scheduled for the sports center arena at 10 a.m. Saturday. Rankin said they’re planning a brunch instead of the regular barbecue, and the auction would start at noon.
One other new aspect for the 4-Hers is a horse show. There have been a couple of new clubs that have gotten heavily into horses, and they’ll have a 4-H horse show at the Soldotna rodeo arena at 9 a.m. Sunday.
"We have about 20 4-Hers and a very special guest—a 4-H alumni judge," she said. "She’s going to put them through the paces. Since this is our first show in a very long time, it’s new to a lot of us, a lot of our leaders and youth, as well as me. So we’re keeping that nice and simple this year. It will be Sunday at the rodeo grounds, and it starts at 9 a.m., and it will just go most of the day."
There’s also an exposition planned for all three days with vendors, and learning sessions with topics ranging from hydroponic vegetables to hay production to butchering a hog. While 4-H is often connected with livestock, it is rooted in all kinds of agriculture, Rankin said.
The last year has been a difficult one for 4-H. Rankin said the participants had to stop meeting in February 2020, and didn’t see each other in person again until the end of August. For group members that are sometimes close enough to refer to themselves as “4-H family,” that was a hard time. Participation fell off, but has climbed back up this year.
The students got creative last year with the auction after the Kenai Peninsula Fair was cancelled for 2020. She said 4-H originally planned for an online auction, but the students pitched a drive-in auction instead. It went over well, and drew the 4-Hers back together after being separated so long.
"The thing with 4Hers is that they will push on, they will persevere, and that’s what we’ve seen, and they did it," she said. "They got it done. They all were awarded 4Hers of the year last year because it was too hard for our judges to pick just one because it took an immense amount of effort for them to finish the year strong, finish their project. And I think that’s our youth across the board last year—it was just really hard on them."
Daily admission to the fair is $4, and kids 5 and under get in for free. Registered auction bidders also get in for free. For more information, check out kp4h.com/expo.
Reach Elizabeth Earl at email@example.com.