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Ellis County Fair has old flavor, but new twists




Of course there will be the traditional activities and things to see at this week's Ellis County Fair in Hays.

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Of course there will be the traditional activities and things to see at this week's Ellis County Fair in Hays.

Rabbits and chickens, sheep and goats, pigs and cattle and cute little bucket calves in the animal pens.

Up the hill to the north, there will be food and sewing and woodworking projects and all kinds of crafts in air-conditioned buildings.

Music and car races and rodeos, grilled burgers and funnel cakes and a chainsaw artist on the midway.

But 2013 also will feature several new events and changes to schedules.

For one, visitors to the fair wanting to see 4-H exhibits will have to do so by Friday night. For the first time, all exhibits will be released Saturday morning. In the past, animals were released Saturday morning, but the rest stayed through Saturday and were released Sunday morning.

"We've noticed that there has been very little traffic through the exhibit buildings on Saturday," said Susan Schlichting, Ellis County Extension agent for 4-H and youth development. "So we thought we'd try this. ... It also will help out (4-H) families, making one less trip to the fairgrounds."

All animals will be released between 8 and 10 a.m. Saturday, with all indoor exhibits to be picked up between 9 and 11 a.m.

Another activity involving 4-H'ers will be a food challenge Thursday, where teams of 4-H'ers will be given written directions and have so much time to prepare a certain food project. Awards will be given to the winners, similar to those awarded to participants in the livestock shows.

Schlichting said she got the idea at a national meeting.

"We were trying to get some new ideas to plug in, to make our foods program more interesting for kids," she said. "About the same time, our kids were saying, 'If you don't have livestock, once you check in your (projects), you don't really have an active role in the fair.' It's a trial thing this year, and we'll see how it goes."

Each 4-H club plays an active role in running the 4-H Food Stand, which also will have a new feature this year.

A feasibility committee has been formed to determine if it's practical to build a new food stand, so 4-H'ers are starting fundraising efforts to earn at least enough for some improvements to the building.

The "Change for a Change" campaign will feature rain gauges on both sides of the food stand for people to throw change in.

"We're trying to raise funds," Schlichting said, "and raise awareness."

Beginning Tuesday, a staple to the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson each September will make its way to Hays.

Hedrick's Pig Races from Nickerson will put on a show three times each night, at 5:30, 7 and 8:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.

Then Friday, Crop Production Services is sponsoring a "tallest corn plant" contest.

Children ages 5 to 18 can bring in a corn plant from 5 to 8 p.m. They will receive a free T-shirt and have the chance to win money in the process.

The tallest stalk, cut at ground level, will receive a $50 gift card, with second place receiving $25.