Rite of Passage

Scenes from the 4H Livestock show at the Kauai County Fair held on August 17th, 2018.

Scroll this

It’s county fair season! Amusements, animal husbandry and local craft combine to celebrate agriculture and the cultural traditions of rural towns. These fairs take place in counties across the country – including those in the Hawaiian islands. 

You might not think a tiny island like Kauai has a county fair, but it certainly does. Every year it’s organized by the Kauai Farm Bureau — a grassroots non-profit that supports the island’s agricultural community. This year, Kauai’s fair celebrated its 50th anniversary!

Whether it’s growing taro or ranching cattle, agriculture plays an important role in Kauai’s local traditions.  Did you know that the cattle ranching tradition with its “paniolos” (aka cowboys) in Hawaii have deep roots that predate the ranching and cowboy history found in the American West? 

In order for these traditions to survive they must be passed down to the next generation.  That’s where county fairs and 4-H programs play a critical role.

4-H livestock programs encourage kids to develop an interest in livestock by giving them an animal (usually a steer, goat or pig) to care for and prepare to be shown in competition at the county fair. They learn about animal health, feeding & weight gain, professional presentation, and generally, what goes into creating healthy, viable, valuable livestock.

Whenever I attend these competitions, I always feel like I’m witnessing a rite of passage. I might be romanticizing the tradition, but you can see its impact on the faces of these kids.