Governor’s Day at the state fair: Guest of honor Carney enjoys festivities

Assistant superintendent of the poultry barn Tanya Miller shows Gov. John Carney a prize winner rooster during Governor’s Day at the Delaware State Fair. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Growing up in Claymont, Gov. John Carney missed out on the Delaware State Fair. Now, he’s making up for lost time.

Gov. Carney attended the annual Governor’s Day at the fair Thursday, taking part in an egg toss, viewing hundreds of crafts and projects and touring the poultry barn, among other stops. The governor engaged with dozens, if not hundreds, of people throughout the day, greeting generations of fairgoers.

Accompanied for part of the day by an entourage that included his wife, Tracey, Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse and the 2019 Mar-Del Watermelon Queen, the governor seemed to enjoy himself.

Thursday marked his third appearance at the fair as the guest of honor on governor’s day and, according to an aide, his fifth stop by the fairgrounds this year.

McKenna Vest holds her Grand Champion Market lamb during the Junior Livestock Auction at the Delaware State Fair.

The Delaware State Fair, which is marking its 100th anniversary, is “a celebration of Delaware agriculture, the No. 1 industry,” Gov. Carney said. “It’s a celebration of a way of life, particularly now increasingly in Kent and Sussex County. It’s a celebration of Delaware farm families. … It’s part of our heritage, it’s part of our history, it’s part of our economy.”

Unlike many Delawareans, he did not grow up attending the fair, instead making it a summer tradition only when he was elected lieutenant governor in 2000, he said.

After starting the day by greeting people at the main gate and taking photos at the fair’s centennial exhibit, the governor headed to the FFA games.

Although he didn’t participate in the watermelon eating contest — there’s no way to gobble down a watermelon and look dignified, he noted — he entered the egg toss. With Miss Laurel as his partner, Gov. Carney made it to the final round, looking every bit the All-Ivy League defensive back he was more than 40 years ago as he narrowly missed claiming first place.

From there, the governor stepped out of the sun for a bit, touring the exhibits in the Centre Ice Rink. Created by members of the 4-H and FFA youth organizations, more than 8,000 crafts and presentations, from vegetables to posters to gardens, sit in the building during the fair. (Perhaps needless to say, the rink does not actually contain any ice during the fair.)

Kids ride a small roller coaster at the Delaware State Fair.

Garrett Geidel, the state 4-H president and a recent graduate of Caesar Rodney High School, was among those who showed the governor around, explaining the judging system and what 4-H hopes to accomplish.

Having a chance to talk to the governor about one of his passions was pretty neat, said Mr. Geidel, who has been involved in 4-H since he was 5.

Gov. Carney then headed to the Dover Building, where he saw more crafts and presented several awards to longtime fair participants.
Following that, it was off to the Department of Agriculture’s Commodities Building to hand out more accolades, honor the Delaware Farm Bureau for turning 75 and learn about bees.

After lunch at the Grange, Gov. Carney joined Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control staff for yet another awards ceremony.

“The most fun that I have is these awards,” the governor said, taking a particular interest in the winners of the youth fishing tournament.

He then toured the Delmarva Building, which contains cages holding hundreds of chickens, ducks, quail and other birds, as well as some rabbits. A few youngsters eagerly showed the governor and his entourage around, letting them briefly pet a few birds and a rabbit.

Taylor Brittingham walks her Grand Champion Market steer during the Junior Livestock Auction.

Later in the day, the governor’s party was joined by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, and Gov. Carney drew the winning raffle tickets for two Delaware State Fair Centennial license plates.

Following a dinner with lawmakers, cabinet secretaries, fair officials and others, the governor concluded his day with harness racing, accompanied by his wife, Mr. Perdue and Mr. Scuse.

The fair’s last day is Saturday.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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