Johnson County fair opens Sunday, celebrates 100th year of 4-H

The Johnson County 4-H and Agricultural Fair is back and celebrating 100 years of 4-H this weekend.

This year’s fair runs from Sunday to next Saturday, July 20. It features a wide array of activities, competitions, food and fun. It is particularly special this year, as 2024 is the 100th anniversary of 4-H in the county.

While the fair officially opens Sunday, the unofficial start of the event is on Saturday with the annual parade at 1 p.m. in Franklin. The parade starts at Franklin Community Middle School and winds around downtown Franklin, ending at the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office. This year’s fair and parade theme is “Rooted in tradition, growing into the future.”

People should anticipate seeing a big celebration of 4-H’s rich history in the parade, said Shalee Bradley, agriculture and natural resources educator for the Purdue Extension.

“The fair parade really just kicks off the spectacle of the biggest week-long event in the county being the county fair,” Bradley said. “So we have some race cars coming which will be cool. Tractors like always, a lot of the candidates for Franklin school board … and of course, it’s an election year so you know, we’ll see lots of candidates come through.”

The grand marshal for this year’s parade is Hopewell Boys and Girls 4-H Club, which was the first club chartered back in 1924, Bradley said.

If attendees are looking to get some extra candy, Bradley says they should watch the parade at the beginning. Don’t have a sweet tooth? Bradley has a tip for those just wanting to see a good show.

“For the best view, I would say anywhere along Jefferson Street,” Bradley said. “Close to the courthouse because then you can hear our announcer Bruce Finley … It’s very like a historical parade feeling to be able to see and hear what’s going on.”

As for the fair itself, fairgoers can expect a few changes to this year’s schedule. The Midway will not be open on Sunday as it has in past years, and fireworks will take place on Sunday night instead of at the end of the fair on July 20.

The change for the fireworks is because the last night of the fair is packed with other activities and the fireworks posed a challenge with parking. Last year, the fair ran out of parking, said Matt Davis, fair board president.

“We always kind of wanted to do that, but the horses were kind of reluctant,” Davis said.

Another change is the addition of the Wheels of Agriculture Game Show throughout the week. It is an audience-interactive attraction that aims to raise agricultural awareness, he said.

A centennial celebration of 4-H is also planned for 4 p.m. Sunday at Centennial Park inside the fairgrounds. More on that celebration and the local history of 4-H will be shared in the Saturday Daily Journal.

Returning to the fair this year are events like Micro Wrestling, the demolition derby, the pet parade, axe throwing, the baby contest and Little Ms. and Mr. Johnson County, along with familiar rides, food and other vendors. A dozen women will also compete for the title of Johnson County Fair Queen at 7 p.m. this Sunday.

A large part of fair week’s activities involve 4-H, like in years past. These include shows, showmanship and project exhibits. The 4-H program helps its members gain valuable life skills that they will take with them once they exit the program, said Heather Dougherty, 4-H youth development educator for the Purdue Extension.

“Kids learn life skills through their projects, to enhance them to be better in the future and to go back into their communities or wherever they might end up and be contributing members to that society,” Dougherty said.

Projects span from photography, arts & crafts and sewing to livestock projects children engage with throughout the year. Volunteers are needed for the 4-H to host workshops and help out with kids’ projects, Dougherty said. But, for most, these projects take shape at home with the help of parents.

Dougherty also highlighted how programs like 4-H bring families together.

“My favorite part is how it draws in the whole family like, and even like, your immediate family, like aunts and uncles and stuff, because everybody comes to the fair to see your projects and to see what you did,” she said. “There are so many times that the judges will tell us over and over again how well our projects are here in the county, and how good our kids are. And so I guess that’s just kind of my favorite part about it, too.”

For Davis, fair week is when people can see what agriculture is about.

“I think it’s important that the local people get out and see the livestock and the projects,” Davis said. “I think it just opens their eyes to where we come from.”


Here is a look at some of this weekend’s highlights. Unlike past years, the Midway is not open on Sunday:

Johnson County Fair Parade

When: 1 p.m. today

Where: The parade starts at Franklin Community Middle School and winds around downtown Franklin, ending at the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office at 1 Caisson Drive.

Dog Show

When: 8 a.m. Sunday

Where: East side of Fitzpatrick Hall

Truck Show

When: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday

Where: Grandstands

Pet Parade

When: 1 p.m. Sunday

Where: Indoor arena

Registration: Starts at noon Sunday.

Wheels of Agriculture Game Show

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

Axe Throwing

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Northeast corner of Herring Hall

Little Miss and Mr. Johnson County

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Indoor arena

100 Years of 4-H Celebration

When: 4 p.m. Sunday

Where: Centennial Park

Flat/Dirt Drags

When: 6:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Grandstands

Admission: $10; Pit Passes are $20

Fair Queen Pageant

When: 7 p.m. Sunday (Trivia Tractor with Wheels of Agriculture Game Show at intermission)

Where: Indoor arena

Fireworks Display

When: At dark