Benton County Fair begins Tuesday with rides, food, exhibits and Clydesdales

BENTONVILLE — The 118th annual Benton County Fair begins its five-day run Tuesday, and fair organizers promise something for everyone, from Clydesdales to carnival games.

And, of course, animals, crafts and cooking.

“Most townspeople think the fair is about carnival rides and funnel cakes, but it’s so much more,” said Benton County District 13 Justice of the Peace Kurt Moore. Its district mainly covers unincorporated parts of the county.

“The fair was and still is about farmers showing off their wares and hard work, whether it’s a prize bull, grandma’s best jam or quilt, outstanding vegetable crops or arts and It is also important for students who participate in FFA and 4-H and I hope to encourage these children to continue farming as a way of life.”

Greenbrier’s Miller Spectacular Shows will provide the setting, including rides for all ages, in addition to traditional games and concessions, according to a press release. According to its website, the Midway Miller Spectacular Shows has operated in over 18 states and the Bahamas.

According to the release, Express Clydesdales will bring a team of giant draft horses and a horse-drawn trainer to entertain exhibitors at the fair, providing education and experiences with the equine team. Express Clydesdales, based in Yukon, Okla., will be at the fair all week, said Laura Minshull, the group’s office administrator. This will be Express Clydesdales’ first time at the Benton County Fair, she said.

The Express Clydesdales each meet thousands of visitors at the historic Clydesdale barn in Oklahoma and travel across North America as goodwill ambassadors for express employment professionals and express ranches, according to its website. There is an Express Employment Professionals office in Springdale and another will open Siloam Springs on Thursday.

The fair will also feature numerous exhibits on livestock, domestic arts, horticulture and agronomy as county residents compete for top honors including Grand Champion, Reserved Champion and Best of Show.

“We have a big event planned for this year’s fair,” said Ashley Hays, chair of the Benton County Fair Board. “We would like to thank our sponsors and volunteers for their support.”

Colin Wilson, 17, a senior at Bentonville High School and a member of the school’s Future Farmers of America chapter, will show off a heifer and four pigs at the fair. This is the sixth year that he has taken part.

Wilson is the only Future Farmers student from her school to participate in the fair, said Courtney Bradley, an agriculture teacher and the school’s Future Farmers sponsor. The school club has about 50 members, but most live in town and don’t have the space to care for farm animals, she said. Wilson lives on six acres outside of town.

Two days a week, he takes two classes in high school, then travels to Northwest Arkansas Community College’s Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food as part of Bentonville’s Ignite Professional Studies program. The program provides relevant learning experiences in collaboration with regional businesses, non-profit organizations and industry professionals.

Wilson said he enjoys talking with children and adults about the animals he shows, and he walks them around the livestock portion of the fair.

“It’s cute when kids see the animals,” he said. “When they see a real pig for the first time.”

Janice Shofner, county extension worker for 4-H Youth Development, said excitement is building for the fair.

There are 221 young exhibitors in the exhibition hall and 161 young people who will exhibit cattle, sheep, goats, dairy products, pigs, rabbits and horses, she said.

Last year, 1,335 items were entered in the junior departments of clothing, food preparation, food preservation, crafts, home arts, photography and STEM – as well as of a called thrown, where competitors make a sculpture out of scraps or scraps they have found. This year, pre-registration is 2,438 for those departments, Shofner said.

The fair will end on Saturday with the Junior Livestock Premium Auction with a 5 p.m. buyers’ dinner that will precede the auction. This year, the auction committee is planning an online addition to the auction where buyers can purchase locally raised beef from county youth for consumption or resale. To learn more about how to participate, visit Pasture to Plate on Facebook or page 14 of the show book, according to the release.

The auction raised more than $137,000 last year, which benefited 125 young people. Premium auctions allow exhibitors to keep their show animals. With the addition of the Pasture to Plate program, young people will learn direct-to-consumer marketing and buying, and the community can reward future growers for their success in producing locally grown food, according to the release.

Nightly entertainment with live music will begin around 6:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and around 4:00 p.m. on Saturday.

The music schedule is Take Cover Tuesday, Butler Creek Boys Thursday, Divas on Fire Friday and Kevin Upshaw and One Night Stand and Midnight South Saturday, according to the release. There was no music listed for Wednesday in the release.

Marla Joyner, a volunteer and Senior 4H Leader of the Ozark Youth Shooting Sports Club, put the home arts competition entries on a shelf Saturday, September 2, 2022, at the Benton County Fairgrounds. On Saturday, all arts and crafts arrive for competition and will be judged on Monday as the Midway Fair opens on Tuesday. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Spencer Tirey)
Photo Judy Fenton, (left to right) and Linda Simpson, Superintendent of Home Arts, register entries for the Home Arts Competition, Saturday, September 2, 2022, at the Benton County Fairgrounds. Arts and crafts arrive for competition on Saturday and will be judged on Monday as the Fair opens on Tuesday. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Spencer Tirey)

Julia P. Cluff