PERRY -- Agriculture teams from Houston County schools have something of a home-field advantage.
Superintendent Mark Scott said having the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry provides year-round opportunities for the county’s students that have yielded results.
“That fairground is more than just a weeklong fair every year or a 10-day fair,” Scott said. “That fairground is a place where our kids are out there often with competitions.”
Stacy Campbell, director of communications for the fairgrounds, said the complex has an “excellent relationship” with school systems across the state. Still, she recognized that the proximity of Houston County schools was an asset for those students.
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“We feel like it’s a good working relationship,” Campbell said.
The complex hosts statewide events for showing livestock and other agricultural disciplines throughout the year, including during the Georgia National Fair each fall. That allows the school system to save money without costing their students valuable experience.
“Our kids get to compete in state events, and they get to do it in their own backyard,” Scott said. “We’re very fortunate to be able to do that.”
That partnership has perhaps played a role in the students’ success, particularly at Perry High School. Students there recently placed second in floriculture at the FFA’s national competition in Louisville, Kentucky, and the nursery and landscape team finished first. All four members of that team -- Tanner Jones, Liston Mehserle, Ben Parker and Dean Schofil -- finished in the top 10 individually, and Parker won the event.
The championship and runner-up finish were just the latest in a line of victories for the Perry FFA program.
“They’re nationally recognized,” Scott said, recognizing the success of adviser Argene Claxton. “He’s got a whole room full of awards over at Perry High School.”
The county also has 4-H programs for elementary students, and Scott said he hopes to add FFA programs at Huntington, Northside and Thomson middle schools.
“That will give us a program at every school if we do that,” he said.
In addition to the agricultural events, the fairgrounds also hosts events such as weddings and proms. All Houston County high schools except Northside hold their proms there on the same night.
Campbell said the proms are held in different buildings from the livestock events, and she added that the fairgrounds staff have the complex working like a “well-oiled machine” when those events overlap.
“They would never even intermingle or know the other event is out there,” she said.
The fairgrounds has been in operation for 25 years now, and in that time the bond with the school system and county as a whole has only strengthened, Scott said.
“We’re partners with them, as well, and they’re a big part of our community,” he said.
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.