This week’s post is all about the honey and bee exhibit at the Kentucky state fair. If you read last week’s blog post, you know how much I like fairs, and the Kentucky state fair has everything a fair enthusiast like me could want: world class horse shows, music, a wide variety of fried food, contests in everything from best country ham to largest pumpkin, ……and bees!
Some of the exhibits were in different locations from last year, and it took me a while to get oriented even with a map. The fair is located in the sprawling Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, and this year’s bee and honey entries were located in the West Hall. To get to the West Hall, I walked through the West Wing where the livestock shows take place. I was enthralled watching farmers primp their cows with hair dryers and brushes when suddenly I realized that I had stepped in a cow pie, so my day at the fair was spent with poo all over my right shoe.
A considerable amount of space was devoted to the honey and bee exhibit, which shared the same hall with field crops. One of the things I really liked about the exhibit’s layout was that all honey and bee related items were grouped in one area. Photography categories related to bees were displayed in this area rather than with the other photography categories several halls over. Entries in honey related food categories (e.g. bread baked with honey, honey and nut snacks, fruit preserves with honey) were all displayed in this area as well rather than with the other food categories. This arrangement gave the exhibit greater breadth and offered more educational opportunities. For example, next to the baked goods was a placard explaining how to substitute honey for canes sugar when baking.
Last week I lamented about the lack of entries in the honey categories at the local county fairs. People must have saved their entries for the state fair because I saw numerous entries of honey and honey comb. You can see from the picture the variety of honey types from the very light all the way to amber.
The state fair has some interesting and unconventional competition categories such as best non-commercial beekeeping gadget and best educational display. The blue ribbon winner in the beekeeping gadget category was a winter feeding drawer that allows a beekeeper to quickly install fondant in the winter without having to open the entire hive and expose it to the elements. Another gadget entered was a simple screen floatation device that can be placed in a bucket of water to allow bees to drink without drowning.
Interspersed with the competition entries were educational displays. A frame of bees encased in glass was available for people to view and try to locate the queen. The frame was attached to a jar of syrup to allow the bees to feed during the duration of the fair. A viewing area was available for people to watch a video about beekeeping. Signs throughout the exhibit area said, “Ask us how to become a beekeeper.” When I visited, the exhibit was staffed by volunteers from one of the state’s local beekeeping associations. I chatted with a gentlemen volunteering at the exhibit. He has 30 hives, and he lamented that fighting hive beetles is his big struggle this year. Fighting hive beetles has been our struggle too, and that seems to be the common theme of all the Kentucky beekeepers with whom I have spoken. This man told me that he found inserting Swifter sheets into the hives is the best thing he knows of for catching hive beetles. It’s always good to get advice from an experienced beekeeper!
In front of the exhibit was a large area where the Kentucky State Beekeepers Association was selling an array of honey and honey products.
People could also make their own beeswax candle for just 50 cents. The booth seemed quite crowded when I was there, which was in the middle of the day on a Wednesday. Such a high level of interest during a typically slow period at the fair was encouraging.
The only criticism I have is that this wonderful display was tucked away in the West Hall away from the massive AgLand display several halls over. In AgLand, you can find impressive, eye catching exhibits about Kentucky agriculture. These exhibits are designed to be educational and engage fair goers of all ages. An opportunity was missed by not trying to link the AgLand exhibit to the bee and honey exhibit. Given that bees are responsible for about 1/3 of the food supply, they deserve a mention within AgLand, and it would not have been difficult to have signs in AgLand and the honey and bee exhibit area to cross promote one another. In AgLand, a very large autoclave used to sterilize beekeeping equipment at no charge to Kentucky beekeepers was on display. The autoclave belonged to one of the state universities. (I’m going to find out more about this program and hope to blog about it soon.) I didn’t know about this program, and I am guessing that some beekeeping enthusiasts may have overlooked this as well because they went to West Hall instead of going to AgLand, which was all the way over in South Wing A.
Overall, the honey and bee exhibit was really well done, and I would like to thank all those involved in putting it together. I am excited to learn about all the different categories, and I hope to make my first entry in the state fair next year. I also intend to wear my old boots just in case I get distracted and accidentally step in cow poo.