WALLINGFORD — For almost 60 years, the annual agricultural fair has showcased the work of Lyman Hall High School agricultural science students, whether they’re growing flowers, tending to animals or overhauling tractors.
This year’s ag fair continues today from 9 a.m. to noon. Thousands of visitors attend annually, including groups of elementary school children and program alumni.
The ag fair, which began in 1963 as a spring show, is traditionally held for three days during the third week of May.
The regional agricultural science and technology program, formerly called vocational agriculture, was launched in the 1958-59 school year. Girls had been admitted to vo-ag, which started out all-boys, by 1962.
Ag science, unusual among high school programs, is closely tied to a club, the National FFA Organization, formerly the Future Farmers of America.
Students have created scrapbooks every year since 1959 documenting ag science and FFA activities, including the ag fair.
Over the years, these scrapbooks have documented ag fair activities, including demonstrations of sheep shearing and how to handle cows, visits from Smokey Bear and informational displays.
The scrapbooks also show the origins of the ag fair.
In February 1964, students built garden displays in the Lyman Hall foyer, right outside the auditorium doors, for a floral show. In 1965, the spring show was named the animal science fair, and in 1967 it was called the vo-ag fair.
The first vo-ag class had 15 students, according to records kept in the 1959 scrapbook created by students.
Currently, the program enrolls 320 students from nine towns. It’s grown from a 19,000-square-foot space within the school building to the 70,000-square-foot Vernon E. Cleaves Agricultural Science and Technology Center, named for the former vo-ag department head.