Kids and livestock enjoy the day at the Future Farmers of America country fair.
GROW Kids and livestock enjoy the day at the Future Farmers of America country fair. (Pierre Ratte)

Since 1950, Healdsburg has celebrated Memorial Day weekend with a country fair to support its youth in agriculture via Future Farmers of America and 4-H clubs.

There’s a twilight parade, a barn dance, hot dogs and hamburgers, livestock exhibits, judging and auction. It’s a centerpiece of the city’s annual calendar and a kick-off for summer events in Recreation Park. Memorial Day was first celebrated in this country as Decoration Day on May 30, 1868. It stemmed from Southern women decorating the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers, notably decorating both Confederate and Union graves, as reported by Atlantic Monthly and Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune.

Even before the ladies of the South began Decoration Day, there was a Memorial Day celebration, marking the occasion in 1865.

One of the first acts of free slaves and African-American Union soldiers from the famed 55th MA Infantry and 21st Infantry Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops was to exhume prisoners of war from a mass grave at the Washington Race Course in Charleston, SC, re-interring and honoring the fallen with flowers, speeches and a Memorial Day parade around the track.

Although recognized as a holiday by states, it was not until Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in May, 1971, that Memorial Day became an official national holiday.   

Fun facts: Future Farmers of America was founded in 1928, and there are 8,817 FFA chapters in the U.S. with about 735,000 members; FFA’s motto is: learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live, living to serve; 4-H clubs were founded in 1902, and the first clubs were named “the tomato club” or “the corn club;” by 1912, the four-leaf clover with H’s on each leaf was developed as an emblem and the clubs became known as 4-H; the “H’s” stand for:  head, heart, hands and health.

The 4-H motto is: to make the best better; there are 90,000 4-H clubs in America with about 6.5 million members; 4-H clubs are America’s largest youth development program.

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