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10 years of showcasing local goods

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

General Manager

The Henry County Fairgrounds will be alive Saturday with the smells, sights and sounds of locally grown and produced food, crafts and art.

The 10th annual Henry County Harvest Showcase officially kicks off at 10 a.m. Early birds can catch breakfast with the Henry County Chamber of Commerce starting at 7:30 a.m. After that, the activities abound until at least 4 p.m., when the antique tractor pull gets underway.

Throughout the day, visitors to the showcase can enjoy fresh produce from the Henry County Farmer’s Market and check out a variety of locally produced crafts ranging from Keeping Family Traditions’ brooms to woodturner Neil Morris’ bowls.

The showcase began 10 years ago as the merger of two events. Lunch at the Farmer’s Market began the year before the showcase, which developed in 2000.

Henry County Judge Executive John Logan Brent worked for the Community Farm Alliance at the time. After a General Assembly session that dealt with tobacco settlement funding, the CFA asked its organizers and lobbyists to start CFA chapters. Brent seized the opportunity to resurrect the Henry County chapter.

Among other things, the group wanted to do something to promote the county’s agriculture. The idea for a harvest festival was born, and eventually fine tuned to be a showcase.

“When you think of a festival, they take in all those other things like beauty contests and carnival rides, and that’s not what our event is about,” Brent said. “Our primary purpose is to promote Henry County agriculture and Henry County crafts.”

Showcase organizers have remained true to that purpose over the event’s history, and have tweaked the event somewhat over the years. While some events have stuck, others — like a rotten tomato throwing contest — didn’t. Each year, the event’s screening committee goes to “great pains to ensure” products sold at the event are grown or produced in Henry County, or contain at least one locally produced ingredient.

Brent said even members of New Castle Baptist Church work diligently to make sure at least one, if not more than one, ingredient in their baked goods come from Henry County. Then, they label their goods to reflect that. “You’ll see that most of those items are labeled with where the ingredients came from,” Brent said. “It tells people where their food came from.

“Knowing where (your food) comes from, that’s a much bigger story.”

Each year, the showcase committee tries something new. This year, that includes a celebrity milking contest.

Ron Rose, a Henry County resident, has emceed the event since its beginning, and donates the musical talents of his band, Music N a Box. To Rose, who remembers the first Henry County Fair in 1949, the showcase is very much like the fairs of his youth.

“Everything was free, you got in the gate free and the people of the county brought their garden vegetables and fruits in.”

Music N a Box will be among Saturday’s musical guests, who also include Unfinished, Muddy Loafers and the Henry County High School band. For the second year in a row, Rose and his band will be joined by Louisville’s Patrick Henry Hughes.

Hughes will make his third appearance at the festival this year.

“The first year he was here, his mother asked me if (he) could sing a song,” Rose said. Hughes also performed in 2008. Since then, Hughes and his family achieved national attention when ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition renovated the family’s Louisville home. Hughes, who is blind and unable to walk, also gained national attention when he joined the University of Louisville marching band.

Lunch at the Farmer’s Market begins at 11 a.m. and runs until 2 p.m. Following Family Traditions will conduct a broom making demonstration  and the milking contest will take place at 11. The husband calling and liar’s contests begin at 12:30 p.m., and signups for the 2 p.m. cornhole tournament begin at 1 p.m. An antique tractor show starts at 2 p.m., as does the agriculture diversification meeting, followed by the CFA meeting at 2:30.

E-mail us about this article at editor@hclocal.com.