LEE COUNTY MEMBERSHIP FAIR DRAWS LARGE CROWD
OPELIKA, Ala., June 8, 2013 — A stand-still line of cars from across east Alabama was the first clue indicating Lee County Farmers Federation's Membership Fair would be a success today. What no one predicted, however, was just how popular it would actually be.
|More than 2,000 people attended the Lee County Farmers Federation's Membership Fair, which sought to increase membership and promote Alabama agriculture. Attendees enjoyed a variety of events, including a children's tractor pull, live music, cotton gin demo and petting zoo.|
Held at the Lee County Fair Grounds, the event welcomed more than 2,000 people of all ages and provided activities all attendees could enjoy. It also served as a reminder that farming is the backbone of Alabama.
"Today's Membership Fair served a two-fold purpose — promoting membership and displaying Alabama agriculture," said Membership Fair Committee Chairman Charles Whatley, who serves on the county Federation's board of directors. "We estimated around 12-to-1,500 people would show up, and we've seen much more than that. The time, effort and resources put into this event have truly paid off."
Lee County Farmers Federation President Tom Ingram said he was humbled by the crowds and smiling faces.
"We didn't know how successful this event would be because it's the first of its kind for our county," Ingram said. "I hope we're able to get new members, but either way, I'm glad we could educate kids and their parents on the importance of agriculture and what it means to support the Federation."
The Lee County Women's Leadership and Farm-City committees were also on-hand at the fair, each offering a different incentive to stop by their booth. To showcase how easy gardening can be, members of the Farm-City Committee offered participants the chance to plant flowers and take home the newly filled pots. Members at the Women's Leadership Committee booth, meanwhile, shared their committee's mission, sold copies of the Farming Feeds Alabama cookbook and raffled off two hand-painted ornaments. While these neighboring exhibits were popular stops, the cheers and giggles coming from down the row at the Young Farmers' area caught everyone's attention.
"We thought kids would really enjoy the tractor pulls, so we made a contest out of it," said Lee County Young Farmers Committee Chairman Jesi King. "Throughout the day, different age groups from toddlers to elementary kids competed in the pull, and we sent each of them home with activity books and farm stencils. As any farm kid will tell you... it's never too early to learn how to drive a tractor."
An area dedicated to Alfa Insurance's popular product lines and Alabama Farmers Federation's member benefits doubled as a welcome area for new arrivals, many of whom stopped by to speak with Federation Director of Member Benefits Marc Pearson about the Everyday Extras program. Other exhibits and booths included a cotton gin demonstration; petting zoo; equipment demonstrations; beekeeping demonstrations from the Saugahatchee Beekeepers Association; live music; a meet-and-greet with "Bionic Bullrider" Barry Brown; jewelry, flowers and miscellaneous crafts sales; classic car and tractor shows; and pet adoptions. The Lazenbys, a local farm family, shared information about agritourism events they offer on their farm in Auburn, including the Cotton Pickin' Pumpkin Patch, which opens Oct. 2.
Attendees interested in purchasing Alabama-grown products had ample opportunities. Harman Family Farm of Opelika and Sneaky Crow Farm of Roanoke offered fresh produce, while other individual vendors offered watermelons and blueberry bushes.
Sparing no expense to ensure a fun, budget-friendly day, the Lee County Farmers Federation provided all food, drinks and activities. For Loren and Elouise Sutton of Opelika, who celebrated 57 years of marriage by attending the fair, that was icing on their anniversary cake.
"The promotion for this fair is really what drew us out today, and we're so excited to take part in the fun," said Elouise, who joined the roster as one of the county Federation's 17 newest members. "It's wonderful to see so many children around the animals and showing an interest in agriculture. Today was truly enjoyable."