—by Michael Crumb

Ames Tribune Staff Writer

The Story County Fair is trying to bring town and country together by providing free entertainment that is geared toward young people in the county, Fair Board President Jeff Longnecker said.

The fair is scheduled to begin next Saturday and will run through July 24.

"We’re a real rarity in the state," Longnecker said about the fair he oversees. "There are only three that are remaining that are a true youth fair. There is no admission (charge), no carnival, no racetrack; it’s strictly about the kids and the animals."

There are hundreds of entries in this year’s fair, with 200 horse entries alone, he said.

There will also be a free petting zoo and free pony rides on Saturday and Sunday, free face painting, the coronation of the fair queen Saturday night, and a free movie night on Sunday night, among other things.

There will a rabbit hopping competition, a celebrity milk-off, and pies baked by local church women, Longnecker said.

"Our pies at our food stand are known statewide," he said.

The fair is managed by a 12-member board and goes on each year with the help of "a lot of volunteers," Longnecker said.

This year’s fair also will feature an "ag awareness day" to help raise awareness of agriculture and its connection to the kitchen table, said Longnecker, a Cambridge area cattle farmer.

"As farmers, we discover that a lot of people, particularly young people, don’t know where their food comes from," he said. "We will have groups from almost every ag organization represented."

Beef and pork producers will be grilling and giving away samples, Longnecker said.

There also will be a focus on youth safety, teaching children "what to watch out for and what to stay away from on the farm," he said.

But the biggest focus of this year’s fair will be bringing city and country life together, Longnecker said.

"If you asked 100 kids in the city how many of them have ridden a pony, probably 99 would say they haven’t," he said. "For people who have never been to the fairgrounds, you can come here and touch a rabbit, or a chicken, or touch a hog or beef cattle, with people more than happy to have you approach them and ask them questions.

"We’re really trying to bring town and country together."