Celebrate rural life: Go to county fair this week

It's Cabarrus County Fair time, when everyone heads out here to the eastern part of the county to enjoy rides, vendors, fair food and entertainment.

The full schedule of events is at the fair's website:

But at the heart of the county fair are the competitions in areas like horticulture, livestock and baked goods. They are the reason for the fair: to showcase talent and hard work and to celebrate those very important skills that celebrate rural life.

And very often, the competitors are young people involved in 4-H.

Donna Rogers leads the K-9 Capers 4-H Dog Club. Her group is getting ready for its big day at the fair Saturday. Beginning at 1:30 p.m. they'll have a variety of dog shows and contests. There will be a pooch parade, an agility fun match, a dog bite prevention workshop and prizes for dogs with the best costume or longest tail, best tricks and cutest.

The highlight of the dog show this year will be a police dog demonstration at 3:30, along with a very special presentation. The club's members, ages 5 to 18, have been saving up to buy a police dog protective vest for a local police dog.Rogers explained that these vests cost more than $700. They provide bullet and stab protection for police dogs.

Seventh-grader Cooper McAuley will be showing sheep at the fair this afternoon. Cooper has been in 4-H practically his whole life. He said his parents and grandparents are all active in 4-H, so when his mother told him it was time for him to join, he said, "Yes, ma'am!" and never looked back.

Cooper works with dairy cows at his uncle's farm in Iredell County and with sheep at his grandparents' place in Midland. He said he figured sheep would be easier, since they're smaller, but discovered they are much harder to catch. He'll be showing six sheep at the fair: three lambs and three yearlings. To get ready for the show, they'll all get a bath followed by a blow-dry, shearing and pedicure (which, Cooper said, the sheep hate). Cooper explained he has to take good care of the sheep throughout the year so they'll be ready for judging at the fair.

Cooper said he loves being in 4-H, except maybe for all the writing he has to do to prepare a presentation on his year's work. But it must be that Cooper does that writing well, because last year he was a winner at the state level.

There are lots of kids like Cooper who work hard all year to prepare for the county fair. So be sure to take a break from the rides, entertainment and food to enjoy the heart of the fair: the wide variety of competitions and the folks who participate in them.