On your mark. Get set. Show!

Though Ottawa’s fairgrounds won’t be bustling until next week, today essentially serves as the starting line for a marathon fair season in Franklin County — a time for youths to showcase their talents and for adults to reconnect with the area’s agricultural roots.

Modern fairs offer a little something for everyone. While livestock continue to be a staple, many fairs also offer such varied competitions as rocketry, photography, energy management and clothing construction. The latter is expected to be on display today with the Franklin County Fair and Rodeo’s first big day of events, featuring the 4-H Clover Revue at 7:30 p.m. at the First Baptist Church’s Ellott Hall, 410 S. Hickory St., Ottawa. In addition, Mr. and Miss 4-H are expected to be named at the event.

Franklin County fair festivities continue Saturday with a horse show beginning at 9 a.m. at the Franklin County Fairgrounds, 220 W. 17th St., Ottawa, followed by dog, cat and pet shows starting at 1 p.m. Sunday at the fairgrounds. Food categories kick off the more mainstream elements of the fair Monday and Tuesday next week, with fair setup Wednesday and livestock classes, carnival offerings and other activities rounding out the week and weekend. A full schedule of events is set to be published in The Herald’s special Franklin County fair section in the next Weekender edition.

Fair spectators and competitors need not wait for next week to see local youths’ swine, sheep and cattle in the show ring. The Richmond Free Fair is set to begin Thursday with poultry and rabbit judging, athletic events, “Cowboy Olympics,” music by the Garnett Community Band and karaoke. Highlights for Friday include more livestock shows, a horse clinic, frog jumping contest and the Big Sugar Band. Festivities close Saturday with the dairy and beef show, mutton busting competitions, a greased pig contest and an ice cream sale, among other events. The grand parade — featuring honorary marshals George and Marge Steinberger and the theme “Happiness Is ...” — is set for 6 p.m. Saturday in Richmond. A full schedule of events can be found on the Richmond Free Fair’s Facebook page.

For those who don’t get enough “old-time,” nostalgic fair fun in July, the Lane Agricultural Fair awaits just around the corner. Set for Aug. 1-3, the Lane fair is expected to feature a peewee rodeo, horseshoe pitching and other activities and entertainment. The Osa-Lane Quilt Show also is planned as a highlight for the three-day event and an evening parade 7:30 p.m. Aug. 2 is set to honor grand marshals Jim and Nancy VanSickle.

Whether in Ottawa, Richmond or Lane, coordinating and executing a successful, varied and compelling fair lineup takes endurance and commitment — the same qualities participants need to properly raise an animal, complete the requirements for competition and grow into the next generation of farmers and community members. Let’s cheer on Franklin County’s 4-H’ers and other fair-loving youth — as well as the fairs’ organizers — as they cross their own well-deserved individual finish lines, earning ribbons and our accolades along the way.

— Tommy Felts, managing editor