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Aaron R. Gray: County youths take projects to State Fair

The heat from summer is finally starting to lift its thumb and the fall-like weather has already brought us a few inches of rain.

The cool weather reminds us that football season is in full swing and that the State Fair of Texas is underway. The fair was started in 1866 and continues to offer the best in youth contests and activities.

There will be several area 4-H members competing in Dallas with their livestock projects, which include market hogs, market lambs and breeding heifers. Denton County 4-H members will also field two competitive teams in the wildlife contest and livestock judging.

The wildlife contest will test the participants in wildlife identification, management plans and on-site recommendations. Denton County is the reigning state champion in this event.

Our livestock judging team will evaluate classes of cattle, hogs, sheep and goats on their characteristics as either a breeding or market animal. In some classes they are given data and a scenario to consider in their decision. After judging the animals, the contestants will give oral reasons explaining what they considered when deciding on how to place the class.

The State Fair of Texas is not just for livestock and 4-H. The beautiful and historic 277-acre Fair Park will also be the site of shows — from BMX bikers to celebrity chefs to puppets — and exhibits, live music, pig racing, a wine garden, new rides and more. And don’t forget the food and shopping.

This is also a special fair because it’s the re-unveiling of Big Tex. Big Tex has been a fair icon since 1952, but a fire put the friendly giant out of commission last year.

People from all over the country attend the fair, which adds $300 million to the Dallas-Fort Worth economy.

This year’s fair opened Friday and runs through Oct. 20. For more information, visit the fair’s website at I hope everyone finds time to attend the State Fair to help support Denton County youths — and of course to enjoy the several different events they have scheduled this year.

In the meantime, I have been busy doing demonstrations on soil erosion for the fourth- and fifth-graders at Rivera Elementary School.

The “stream trailer,” from the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Facility in Dallas, uses ground-up buttons (to represent sediment) and running water to show how the shape of a stream and the vegetation around it can help reduce soil erosion and flooding. It’s always fun to see students get excited about learning, and the teachers actually enjoyed participating in the demonstrations as well.

These resources are available for curriculum enrichment through the Texas A&M AgriLife office. If you have any questions about how to get involved, please don’t hesitate to contact me at or 940-349-2884, or visit our office at 401 W. Hickory St., Suite 125, in Denton.

AARON R. GRAY is the 4-H and youth development extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. He can be reached at 940-349-2884.