Celebrating 100 years, the Johnson County Fair kicks off July 14 with the theme “Rooted in Tradition, Growing the Future.”

A Bit of History

In 1924, Johnson County adopted the 4-H program and it still thrives today with an enrollment of 1,185. 4-H is America’s largest youth development organization empowering nearly six million youth in skills to lead for a lifetime. The initiative is developed by Cooperative Extension where Purdue University provides the
information and resources in running the program where young people learn by doing.

Johnson County 4-H

In 4-H, kids and teenagers compete in hands-on projects in areas like health, science, agriculture, and civic engagement. Adults mentor the youth and give them encouragement to take on leadership opportunities.
County resident Louise Beaman has invested 60 years in 4-H, 23 of those years as a National Advocate. She stressed that the soft skills learned through the program are essential to employers. Leadership, time management, and organizational skills are all vital and acquired through the programming of 4-H.
4-H is for grades 3- 12, and Mini 4-H is for youth in grades K-2. 4-H offers over 100 project options and it takes many volunteers to round out a successful year for everyone.

One of those long-time volunteers is Jim Williams, of rural Franklin. Jim and his wife, Jeri, served as leaders of the Shiloh Mix and Match Club during the 70’s. As a family, The Williams family put together a replica of a farm for display and he helped build several fair parade floats for the county and state fairs. Williams
offered a word of advice to today’s members, “4-H involves a lot of hard work, but you can learn a lot if you pay attention.”

94-year-old Martha (Canary) Compton may very well be the oldest living 4-H member in Johnson County. When Compton was in 4-H, (1940-1950) club membership was girls only or boys only clubs. She was invited to be a part of a boy’s club to attend Round Up when her refined judging skills were discovered.
She explained, during the Depression, ribbons were recycled for a few years. The year stamp on the ribbons were X’d out and a new year was restamped. Compton lends this advice to today’s competitors; “It’s not about (winning) first place, but just keep at it.” Compton looks fondly back on meeting up with friends she would only see fair week each summer and said it was the highlight of her social life back then and in more recent years. Compton will celebrate 73 years of marriage this November to her husband, Jay. Together, they led three generations of 4-H involvement.

Historical photo of couple at Johnson County Fair

Sometimes 4-H friendships turn into a more lasting relationship. Connie (Pevler) Clark was working summers for the Purdue Extension Office when she met her future husband, Mike, who was a broadcaster for the Franklin radio station WIFN. The station placed a Rover trailer at the fairgrounds. Part of Connie’s job
overseeing Scott Hall was to run the current ribbon placement winners to the Rover so the results could be announced over the radio. Soon a friendship developed. Toward the end of the week, Mike asked Connie if she would walk around the fair midway with him. Unbeknownst to her, he had it set up with a carnival worker he would win a prize to impress her. They stopped at the snow cone booth and purchased two cherry snow cones before proceeding to the baseball throw booth.

Within minutes a bumped arm resulted in Clark wearing red snow cone slush down her snow-white top. Despite this beginning, the Clarks will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. They met one fair week and were married a year later. In 1975, Mike and Connie co-emceed the Johnson County Queen Contest.

Fair ribbons

Nine-year-old Letitia Sparks, daughter of Katie (Findley) Schwarz and Brad Sparks, is a fourth generation 4-H member. Her great-grandmother was in 4-H during the late 1930-s and early 1940’s. Sparks won the Johnson County Little Miss title at last year’s fair. She especially enjoyed hanging out with the Queen’s court where she says the queen “was super sweet and nice to me.” Sparks said a highlight of last year’s fair was earning a second placing with her pig, Elvis, and handing out ribbons in the livestock barn. In addition to her pigs
this year, she has projects in Arts and Crafts, Flowers, and Consumer Clothing. Sparks said her favorite things about fair week are hanging out in the pig barn and getting to the fairgrounds early enough to eat breakfast at the Shrine tent.

Another youth involved in 4-H is 12-year-old Emmett Garrett. Garrett is the son of Jamey and Jessalyn (Cramer) Garrett. Emmett is a fifth-generation 4-H member. His great- great grandparents were leaders during the 1940’s in Johnson County. His projects this year include fishing, gardening, and a truck model. This is Garrett’s fourth year in 4-H. He says,” I’ve learned to start planning projects as soon as I can so I’m not waiting until the last minute.” Garrett said his favorite fair food is the Beavertail and his favorite events include truck and tractor pulls.

Heather Dougherty with the Johnson County Purdue Extension credits the late Max Fitzpatrick with getting the ball rolling on the county celebrating its centennial year. Plans took shape for a big celebration with a newly-formed committee, the Johnson County Endowment Foundation, and volunteers.

Opening Day of the fair, July 14th at 4:00 p.m., a 100-year celebration ceremony will take place on the fairgrounds in Centennial Park. Scott Hall will have celebratory items for purchase, as well as opportunities to become a member of the 100 Club or purchase engraved bricks for Centennial Park.

The Johnson County Fair runs from July 14-20, 2024 at the Fairgrounds in Franklin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Welcome Back!

Login to your account below

Retrieve your password

Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.

Send me your media kit!

hbspt.forms.create({ portalId: "6486003", formId: "5ee2abaf-81d9-48a9-a10d-de06becaa6db" });