Youth Fair looks back as it celebrates 65 years

Jay Baum has attended the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair with his children since 1970. Every year, Baum and his family start the fair by waiting for the gate to open and then eating corn dogs.

Now, he continues to enjoy the fair with his 13-year-old grandson, Ethan Baum.

“Since he was a baby he’s been coming here” said Baum, who began working at the youth fair in 1994 as senior vice president and is now a senior consultant. “For me, watching the fair through a youngster’s eyes is incredible. When he was little and I brought him in and I walked him down the midway, you see the sights and the sounds and the lights, and his eyes were as wide as his face.”

fair1Image by Roberto Koltun

The Miami-Dade County Youth Fair is a nonprofit organization focused on promoting education and agriculture in South Florida, while also rewarding youth achievement.

This year, it celebrates 65 years of running as an official youth fair, looking to highlight outstanding academic achievements of students in the community and rewarding them with scholarships and prizes. With four basic areas to visit that include the midway, food and finery, entertainment and student exhibits, it is currently the largest fair in the state of Florida and the largest ‘youth’ fair in the world.

But the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair wasn’t always known as a yearly fundraising event. Until 1950, it was known as a ‘weekly organized adult fair.’ In 1951, it became the Dade County Youth Fair, after Assistant County Agent J. Lawrence Edwards turned the concept into a full volunteer-driven exposition by combining agricultural exhibits with farmers and dairymen in the county.

1950s 1
Darwin Fuchs was part of the leading group that helped the youth fair evolve into what it is today: a 21-day event with a staff of 3,000, collecting funds used for student scholarships, academic funding and maintenance of the property.

“It started out as a very humble agricultural fair, strictly as a showcase for youth achievement for kids and future formers of America,” said Fuchs, who was elected as the youth fair’s vice president in 1967 and served as manager in 1969.

In 1972, the youth fair moved for the second time — from a 26-acre space at 9400 Kendall Dr., to a 260-acre space at Tamiami Park, next to Florida International University, where it is now. In the 1980s, the construction of the Tower Building and Shop Building took place, and in the 1990s, The Youth Fair held a total of 454,274 student exhibits and gave out 1,033,208 premiums.

1980s 23This year, with an expected crowd of more than 653,000 attendees, the youth fair opened Thursday and runs through April 10 — except for March 28-29 and April 4-5.

Guests can expect 170 food locations, more than 90 attractions and rides, petting zoos, pig races, an ice-skating show, concerts, more than 50 games and an array of agricultural and academic exhibits within this year’s schedule.

Robert Hohenstein has been the president and CEO of the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair since 2012.

1960s 11He believes that for the past 65 years, the fair’s main focus has not only been raising funds for education, but also providing a safe and secure family environment to the community.

“We are all about outdoor family entertainment and that’s what we provide,” Hohenstein said. “The community, over our 65 years has built so many memories. So many people will tell me the experience they had 40 years ago when they were parents, and now they’re great grandparents or grandparents, and I think that’s what brings people back every year; those in the Miami community that have built a family memory here.”

Images courtesy of Miami Dade County Youth Fair
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