By Jill Keppeler
Starting Aug. 5, hundreds of people will flock to the Niagara County Fair in Lockport to sample the food, visit the animals and exhibits, watch the shows and ride the rides -- and many county residents will be there, behind the scenes, caring for the exhibits, working concessions and otherwise helping to make sure things run smoothly.
The Travers family of Ransomville is one of the many 4-H-involved families that will be among them. Patti and Mark Travers and their children, Beth, Cassie and Stephen (all of whom attend or attended the Niagara-Wheatfield school district) have been involved in local 4-H for more than a decade.
Although Beth, now 22, has aged out of the organization and, at 18, it's Cassie's last year taking part, the organization is still a big part of their lives, Patti Travers said. The family started out joining the Sanborn Stallions club and taking part in crafts. Soon, she was leading the club and the family began expanding its 4-H activities, raising rabbits, sewing, baking and taking part in the Ambassadors leadership program.
"That's where we are, from dawn to dusk, down at the fair," Patti Travers said, "doing something, helping out at the rabbit barns, or at the Milk Bar or the pie kitchen, wherever they need help. There are always things that need to be done.
"4-H is really nice because you can pick and choose how much we want to be involved. You can go every week to something or you can go every month. You get out of it -- and your kids do -- whatever you put into it. It's a wonderful program."
Travers said her family has gotten a lot out of 4-H and the fair. It teaches presentation skills and how to think independently, she said -- and not to be afraid to try something different.
"They've made a lot of good friends," she said. "It's a very nice community of people who have a lot of skills and a lot of knowledge that gives you access to people all throughout the county. If I had a problem I could call on anyone in the 4-H community and they would help me out."
Cassie Travers graduated from Niagara-Wheatfield in 2014 and is now a student at Clarkson University. This will be her last fair as part of 4-H ... but the experience has had quite on impact on her, she said.
"I really love it all," she said. "I've definitely learned a lot about talking to people and people skills. You learn a lot about communicating with other people. You learn how to graciously win ... and lose."
The fair is operated by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County. Fair Director Cathy Maloney said that it has everything found at larger venues, "but in a family-friendly atmosphere that is fun, affordable and educational."
"With over 100 business vendors, more than 20 food vendors, 4-H animal displays, educational exhibits, great bands and entertainment and all your favorite fair rides and games, there is a lot to see and do," Maloney said. "We are proud of all the hard work done by our 4-H'ers and want the community to know that when you support the Niagara County Fair, you are supporting educational programs that benefit children, families, farmers, seniors and communities across Niagara County all year long."
Among the new features at the fair this year are a number of shows, including "Squawk! Vegas Birds," Buffalo magician Todd Nelson, the Mike Steidley: Mountain Bike Stunt Show, Airplay juggling, unicyling and acrobatics and a new show from the returning K-9s in Flight. The Diamond Heist Laser Maze Challenge (in which participants can take on a mission that involves crawling through light beams) is also new this year.
Popular continuing events include the Farm-City Breakfast, which takes place starting at 8 a.m. Aug. 5; the antique tractor and equipment parade at 7 p.m. Aug. 5; the chicken barbecue Aug. 6; the annual 4-H lifestyle auction Aug. 7; "Beer and Bands" (the beer tent and musical performances) Aug. 7 and 8; the Niagara County Firefighters Parade at 5 p.m. Aug. 8; and the classic car show on Aug. 9. The Western New York Home Wine Competition will take place Aug. 8.
Strictly Hip will perform on the main stage at 7 p.m. Aug. 7 and 90 West will perform at 6 p.m. Aug. 8. Other musical performances will include Creekside Classic Country, Caribbean Extravaganza, Craig Wilkins, Jeff Didion, Widow Maker, Wasted Whiskey, Carrie G and Higher Mountain Bluegrass.
Daily events include the Agriculture Discovery Zone, the book barn, the bicycle rodeo for children, 4-H demonstrations and events and the midway.
For a complete schedule, visit www.cceniagaracounty.org/mark-your-calendar.