By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENSON -- Learning the ropes of county fairs includes knowing how to tie the right knot.
The Frederick County Fair added a "day camp" to this year's schedule to help teach youths about the efforts made by participants in the various competitions and shows.
"This week, for one hour a day, we are showing them how to raise a different type of species and then also about other things they can do in the fair," camp coordinator and veterinarian Marietta Walls said Wednesday morning.
More than 20 children sat in the show barn and watched as Matt Moulden, 15, explained how much time and money it can take to raise a calf before bringing the animal to the fair to compete.
"For some of these kids, they are interested but don't know too much about how this is done," Walls said.
Not all children in the day camp have participated in fair events and competitions.
"Personally, I think raising an animal is a lot of responsibility," Walls said. "This teaches them responsibility and it also teaches them where their food comes from. So I want our younger generations to know you just don't go to the supermarket and get your food. There's actually a background to it.
"But also the fair can be very fun. The whole family participates and the kids, for their rewards, they get ribbons and prize money," she added. "So for me it's just a fun way to have family work together and keep kids out of trouble."
The children then divided into groups and, using pieces of rope, practiced tying the knot they would need to use if showing a calf at a fair. As they each tied their knot to the metal fencing of the show area, they had to pull as hard as they could to test their work.
Patrick Carroll, 12, Elizabeth Carroll, 10, and Nick Newman, 13, tested their knot-tying skills. Elizabeth said she had enjoyed the camp so far and had never participated in fair events.
Today's camp will focus on raising sheep and showing horses, Walls said. Additionally, they will look agriculture -- picking out the best vegetables and how produce is judged. Friday's camp includes rabbits and poultry, educational exhibits, fine arts and photography.
During the camp Wednesday, the group learned more about other events held at the fair, such as the box-turtle race, the bubble-gum blowing and apple pie-eating contests, the pageants and the pig scramble.
Each child was given the chance to practice -- or learn -- blowing bubbles with chewing gum.
Rose McDonald, a 4-H Club leader from Cross Junction, lauded the idea of the camp and its teaching goal.
"When they come to see the animals, the animal's already done," McDonald said. "They don't realize what goes on before ... what the kids put in it is just tremendous."