Bees, butterflies and beetles will be well represented at the 145th annual Dixon May Fair, which opens Thursday, May 5 for a four-day run (May 5-8) after a two-year hiatus.
They're among the insects depicted in photographs and other art by Solano County 4-H'ers and other youth in the Youth Building, Denverton Hall. The work includes that of Matthew Agbayani of the Vaca Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville, who entered a color photograph of a honey bee and a syrphid fly (aka flower fly or hover fly) foraging on a sunflower.
The judging is done, the ribbons are hung and the doors will open at 4 p.m. May 5.
Chief executive officer of the fair since 2012 is Patricia Conklin, a member of the Western Fairs Association Hall of Fame and a 4-H and FFA alumnus who grew up in Dixon and exhibited at the Dixon May Fair in her youth. Her daughter, Leta Myers, a marine biologist, assisted with the clerking during the recent judging. Like her mother, she, too, is a 4-H and FFA alumnus, but in Gridley, Calif., where Mom served as CEO of the Butte County Fair for 10 years.
The Dixon May Fair, the 36th District Agriculture Association, is the oldest district fair and fairgrounds in the state. It traditionally ends on Mother's Day. This year's theme is "Super Fun.”
The fairgrounds are located at 655 S. First St., Dixon. Fair hours are noon to 9 p.m. on May 5; noon to 10 p.m. on May 6; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on May 7; and noon to 10 p.m. on May 8. General admission is $15 for those 13 and older; $10 for children ages 5 to 12; and free for children 4 and under. Seniors over age 65 and military members with active duty cards will be admitted for $10. Special days include Thrifty Thursday, when general admission for those 5 and older is $5, and Kids' Day Friday, with free admission all day for children 12 and under. See Dixon May Fair website and fast facts for more information on entertainment, exhibits, livestock shows and parking.
"You can learn a lot from these displays," a fairgoer at the 144th annual Dixon May Fair commented.
She was looking at an educational display with the catchy title, "None of Your Beeswax," the work of Ryan Anenson of the Tremont 4-H Club, Dixon, whose projects include beekeeping. The display is showcased in the Youth Building (Denverton Hall) at the Dixon May Fair, which opened Thursday, May 9 and continues through Sunday, May 12.
In his project, Anenson explained what bees produce. He zeroed in on bee venom, pollen, beeswax, royal jelly, honey, propolis, and also alternative medicine, history of honey, and bee hive air. Anenson concluded: "Honey might be the most well-known bee product in the world, but it certainly isn't the only by-product these magnificent creatures produce. Bees are considered 'the pillars of agriculture' for the work they do in pollination. If you have ever enjoyed most fruit, vegetables and other crops, you should generally thank the bees. Through pollination, bees contribute to maintaining biological balance in nature and help various animal and plant species, including humans, to thrive. Honeybee products are an entirely natural food source and have a long medicinal history that people have used since ancient times.Bees are arguable the most invaluable species to life on earth and are more vital than many people may realize."
As for beeswax, Anenson penned: "Worker bees at a young age will secrete beeswax from a series of glands on their abdomens. They use this beeswax to form the walls and caps of the honeycomb. However, some beekeepers use plastic as a foundation or substitute for honeycomb. Just like the honey that bees produce, many people harvest beeswax for various purposes, like candles, lip balms, creams, polish and conditioners, just to name a few."
The teenage 4-H'er was among those who attended a UC Davis Bee Symposium several years ago, and also participated in a recent California Honey Festival, co-sponsored by the City of Woodland and the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center.
Madeline Giron, another Dixon 4-H'er, sketched a color pencil drawing of a bee, and Markus Taliaferro of the Suisun Valley 4-H Club, Dixon, submitted a photo of a honey bee sipping nectar. Another drawing, the work of Katelyn Nipper of Fairfield, featured "crayon art flowers": brightly colored spring flowers bordered by the crayons she used.
Lots of flowers! Just add pollinators!
Meanwhile, speaking of pollinators and plants, there's a clearance plant sale at UC Davis on Saturday, May 11 at the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden's Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive. It's open to the public from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Horticulturists are billing it as a "Pollinator Paradise." Everything is 15 percent off (Members receive an additional 10 percent off.) You can access the inventory here.
Lots of plants! Just add pollinators!
Yes, 4-H'ers can enroll in beekeeping projects--if a club offers them. And they should!
Rewind to the 2012 Solano County Project Skills Day. We were photographing an enthusiastic Mikalya talking about her beekeeping project to Mike Reagan, then a member of the Solano County Board of Supervisors. Her project: "Honey Muffins." She won a showmanship award, the highest award given.
Fast forward to today.
Mikalya is a senior at Rio Vista High School and the recipient of one of six college agricultural scholarships awarded by the Friends of the Dixon May Fair. In fact, she won the Jack Hopkins Scholarship of $1,500, the top award in the two-year community college category.
The little girl fascinated by honey bees now plans a career as a large animal veterinary technician. “All my life I have loved being involved with animals, which has driven me to become a large animal veterinary technician," she wrote in her scholarship application. A longtime member of the Rio Vista 4-H Club, she joined the youth organization in first grade. “My first animal project was to raise two market goats for the Dixon May Fair."
“I have continued to show animals up until the present," wrote Mikalya. "In that time, I have raised honey bees and have shown market steers, market chickens, roaster ducks, market turkeys and many market and breeding meat goats, exhibiting several champion and reserve champion animals at both the Dixon May Fair and Solano County Fair. She joined the Rio Vista FFA when she started high school and received several degrees, including the chapter degree and state farmer degree. She plans to obtain her general education at Solano Community College and then transfer to Cosumnes River College, Sacramento, or Carrington College, Sacramento, for the veterinary technician program.
The Friends of the Fair, the service-oriented and fundraising arm of the Dixon May Fair, has awarded an incredible $186,250 in college scholarships since its founding in 2000. The organization raises funds primarily through the sale of beverages sold at the Dixon May Fair.
“We're proud to help our college students majoring in agriculture,” Donnie Huffman of Vacaville, president of the Friends of the Fair since 2000, told the crowd gathered Wednesday, May 30 on the Dixon May Fair grounds. “This was our 19th year at the fair and one of our best years.” At this year's fair, May 10-13, the gross sales of beverages totaled $164,446.
“This is where we get our money for scholarships,” Huffman said.
Mikayla joined five other recipients in the winners' circle--and all are in 4-H or are 4-H alums:
- Jillian Raycraft of Dixon, a 2015 graduate of Dixon High School and a student at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo, received the top award, the $3000 Ester Armstrong Scholarship. The scholarship memorializes a fair industry veteran who served as interim chief executive officer from 2006 to 2009. Career plans: agriculture finance and policy.
- Mackenzie Davi of Dixon, a senior at Dixon High School and soon-to-be student at California State University, Chico, received the newly created $2500 JoAn Giannoni Award. The annual award honors a Dixon resident who served as the long-time scholarship chair and secretary of Friends of the Fair. Career plans: agricultural teacher.
- Rebecca Luedke of Dixon, a 2013 graduate of Dixon High School and a student California State University, Chico, won the $2000 award. Career plans: animal nutritionist,
- Halie Pringle of Vacaville, a 2018 graduate Vacaville High School and a pending student at Solano Community College, won the $1250 award. Career plans: agricultural business/soil sciences.
- Cameron Garlick of Dixon, a 2017 graduate of Dixon High School and a second-year student at Butte Community, Oroville, won the $1000 award. Career plans: plant crop advisor.
All Friends of the Fair scholarship recipients must be graduates of a Solano County high school, and be enrolled in a California college, majoring in an agricultural field. (More information on the scholarship application rules is available on the Friends of the Fair site at http://www.friendsofthefair.org. The deadline to apply each year is March 1.)
It's good to see organizations such as the Friends of the Fair honor our youth, our leaders of tomorrow, and skilled in agriculture. Scholarship chair Carrie Hamel of the Friends of the Fair--she's a finance officer with the Department of Public Health Sciences, UC Davis School of Medicine--said applicants are scored on personal, civic and academic experience; academic standing; personal commitment and established goals; leadership potential; civic accomplishments; chosen field in the areas of agriculture. Most recipients have experience in 4-H, FFA or Grange—activities desired but not mandated. Some successful applicants have all three!
As far as we know, only one scholarship recipient enrolled in a 4-H beekeeping project and learned to keep bees, our littlest agricultural workers.
Congratulations to all!
Take, for example, the Solano County 4-H Youth Development Program, part of the UC Cooperative Extension Program.
At the countywide annual Project Skills Day, held last Saturday, Jan. 20 at the Vaca Pena Middle School, Vacaville, scores of 4-H'ers showed what they've learned in their projects. The projects ranged from photography to pigs, from fishing to gardening, and from poinsettias to poultry.
Two involved beekeeping.
Ian Weber of the Vaca Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville, a second-year beekeeper, discussed "The Many Different Parts of a Bee Hive," explaining his project to evaluators and fielding their questions. For his efforts, Weber won a showmanship award, one of 11 youths to win the top honor. He competed in the senior division, ages 14 to 19.
Another Vaca Valley 4-H'er and beekeeper, Miriam Laffitte, entered in the junior division, ages 9-10, chose to discuss wax moths, a pest of beehives. She creatively titled her project "Wacky Wax Moths."
They are among the youths taught by beekeeper Garry Haddon Jr., the project leader. Like all the 4-H leaders, he is a volunteer who donates his time and expertise.
The 4-H program, which follows the motto, “Making the Best Better,” is open to youths ages 5 to 19. The four H's stand for head, heart, health and hands. In age-appropriate projects, they learn skills through hands-on learning in a variety of projects. To name a few: computers, leadership, woodworking, poultry, cavies, rabbits, foods and nutrition, dog care and training, and arts and crafts. They develop skills they would otherwise not attain at home or in public or private schools, Williams points out. (Access the 4-H website at http://solano4h.ucanr.edu/Get_Involved/ for more information about the Solano County program, which currently encompasses 12 clubs.)
It's quite true that 4-H'ers (I'm speaking here as an alumnus and longtime adult volunteer) learn many life skills that they would not otherwise learn at home, or in public or private schools.
And that includes keeping bees!
And you won't want to miss it.
If you head over to the 69th annual Solano County Fair, 900 Fairgrounds Drive, Vallejo, between now and Sunday, July 31, you'll see lots of bees, butterflies, lady beetles, dragonflies, ants and other insects in McCormack Hall. They're depicted in photos and drawings, and on display boards, quilts, cakes, muffins, China plate paintings and more.
Gloria Gonzalez, superintendent of McCormack Hall, and her crew assembled the last of the displays earlier this week, just in time for the opening on Wednesday, July 27. The fair is open weekdays until 11 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday, July 30-31, from noon to 11 p.m.
Fairs are educational, informative, and entertaining, and the Solano County Fair, launched in 1949, is no exception. This year's theme is "Play It Again, Solano!"
But, back to the insects. Most of the exhibits in McCormack, of course, do not showcase insects, but many do! And they are amazing!
Have you ever seen a honey bee on a rock? Andrew Donato of Vallejo, has. In fact, he painted a bee on a rock and entered it in the 9-10 age graphic arts category. It's a winner!
Lexi Haddon Mendes of the Vaca Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville, entered a decorated cake, "Flowers and Bees," in her age division, 9-10. She knows bees; she's a beekeeper and her father heads the club's beekeeping project.
Madeline Giron of Benicia entered muffins decorated with colorful ladybugs, aka lady beetles, in her 11-13 age division. Judges said "Yum!" and "Beautiful!" and "Blue Ribbon!"
Joseph Garrett of Fairfield entered several mounted insect specimens--along with a wolf spider (spiders are not insects)--in the science project division, ages 5-8. Is Joseph an entomologist-to-be?
The work of the adults is also incredible!
- Laquita Cumings of Rodeo entered a quilt of the most colorful butterflies you've ever seen. Best of show!
- Kim English of Fairfield entered a "Dresden design" China painting, adorned with flowers, butterflies and a bee.
- Celia Weller of American Canyon crafted a machine-quilted wall hanging adorned with flowers and an exotic butterfly not found in nature--but found at McCormack Hall.
- Beverly O'Hara of Benicia appliqued a quilt with ants and called it "Ant-titude." Clever! It features ants enjoying a picnic. What's a picnic without ants?
- Anita Jessop of Benicia imagined a field of flowers, and quilted a "Sunny Field of Flowers" wall hanging, complete with a hummingbird and dragonflies.
- Laura Ryan of Benicia entered a fan needlepoint anchored with a delightful blue butterfly. Reminds us of the blue morpho!
Those are just some of the prize-winning exhibits by youth and adults displayed at McCormack Hall. Be sure to check out the other buildings as well for an overall look at what the fair offers. The fair ends on Sunday, July 31 at 11 p.m.
Gloria Gonzalez, a longtime 4-H volunteer, has worked on the McCormack Hall displays for 11 years and has served as the superintendent for three years. She's the community leader of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo, a position she's held for eight years.
The veteran 4-H adult volunteer has served as a project leader in the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club for 18 years. Many of the folks who crew McCormack Hall are also 4-H'ers, including Sharon Payne, a past president of the Solano County 4-H Leaders' Council; and longtime 4-H'ers turned leaders, Angelina Gonzalez and Julianna Payne, all of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club.