MITCHELL — Officials indicated that the participant numbers are down for the Scotts Bluff County Fair, but were still encouraged by what they see.

4-H and FFA participation were both down from previous years. Nathan Rice, 4-H extension educator for youth development, said 4-H had 530 exhibitors with 2,763 entries from 15 clubs in the county. Scottsbluff High School FFA Advisor Alan Held said there were 37 FFA participants.

“We’re always thrilled when we have people come out,” Rice said. “The livestock numbers are down a little, somewhat because of the economy. The Scotts Bluff County Fair is really competitive with a lot of kids involved. We’re reaching more kids than ever, whether it’s through the clubs or by going out to the schools.”

Held said the community has been very supportive of youth participating at the fair.

“I think the economy has something to do with it,” he said of the reduced participation. “There have been so many animals going through the sale ring over the past number of years and we’re asking the community to support them by purchasing those animals even though the economy has been down. I think the economy is a driving factor, but it’s not the sole reason. Some kids maybe haven’t been seeing the return when they sell their animals, so they go out and get a job for the summer instead.”

Rice said there are substantial hours invested working with animals or numerous other projects in order to participate in the fair.

“I think it’s cool to see how 4-H has branched out since I was in it,” he said. “It’s crazy how many more opportunities there are. ... It’s great to be able to empower the local community to be successful and to teach kids to be successful.”

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Mark McCarthy is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9049 or via email at