Utah State Fair beats the heat sort of
Across the Midwest, sizzling heat and withering drought have hit state fairs hard. Here in Utah, not so much.
Not that it hasn't been hot here. Anytime a dip into the lower 90s is seen as a cooling trend, that's a clear indication of a hot, dry summer.
But the summer heat and lack of rain haven't hurt the animal and vegetable entries to the Utah State Fair, which opens Thursday, Sept. 6 and runs through Sept. 16.
"We have not seen a difference," said Clark Caras, executive director of the Utah State Fair. "Our entries have been very strong this year. We're actually up a bit over last year."
The fair staff is still compiling numbers for all entries, but in the junior market show categories, there are 47 steer exhibitors, up from 41 a year ago. The number of sheep entries rose from 234 to 264, and the number of hogs jumped from 102 to 218.
There was no appreciable difference in steer, goat, sheep or hog entries at county fairs this summer, while entries in the vegetable categories have been on par with last year, according to Kevin Kesler, director of the Utah 4H youth programs.
"All of our gardens are irrigated here anyway,"Kesler said. "So the lack of water really hasn't affected people like it would in the Midwest. Obviously, it's taken a toll on agricultural crops, but people just water their gardens anyway."
That doesn't mean that exhibitors in Utah have been unaffected by the ongoing drought and the wildfires that have burned across the West this summer. In some areas, the price of hay has more than doubled.
"The fires burned off all kinds of feed that the cattle and the sheep would have ranged on, and now people are having to feed them in pastures and corrals," Caras said. "And the price has gone from $4 a bale of hay to $9 a bale of hay."
The price of feed corn has also skyrocketed between 60 percent and 100 percent since 2011. "It's like my father said," Caras added, "don't invest in gold, invest in hay and corn."
The remaining question is how much the continuing drought will affect the prices youngsters receive for their show animals.
"The thing that's really going to affect the kids this year is the market price," Caras said. "Because of what's going on around the country and because of the cost of feed and things like that, people are selling off their herds."
That could, potentially, be a big hit for youngsters who raise the animals to fund their college educations.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts that beef prices will rise by year's end because of the thinning herds, but the 4H kids will be selling their animals in mid-September.
"If the price is down, then it's reasonable to expect that the prices kids get will go down," Kesler said. "So that could be a huge impact."
Little Hands on the Farm • (Sept. 6-16, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.) Kids ages 2-10 can get hands-on experience with chickens, sheep, cows and more.
Wilson Phillips •(Friday, Sept. 7, 7:30 p.m.) Concert tickets are $20 in advance; $25 day of show.
Sheena Easton •(Sunday, Sept. 9, 7:30 p.m.) Concert is free with gate admission; seating ticket required.
Victoria Justice •(Monday, Sept. 10, 7:30 p.m.) Concert tickets are $22 in advance; $27 day of show.
Lonestar •(Tuesday, Sept. 11, 7:30 p.m.): Concert tickets are $20 in advance; $25 day of show.
Blues Traveler •(Wednesday, Sept. 12, 7:30 p.m.) Concert is free with gate admission; seating ticket required.
Frank Caliendo •(Thursdays, Sept. 13, 7:30 p.m.) Comedian/impressionist; tickets are $22 in advance; $27 day of show.
Fiesta Mexicana • (Saturday, Sept. 15) Free with gate admission.
Truck Pull •(Saturday, Sept. 15, 4 p.m.) Tickets are $12. (Includes gate admission)
Demolition Derby • (Sunday, Sept. 16, 6 p.m.) Tickets are $20. (Includes gate admission)