MOUNT VERNON — Carnival games can be loads of fun, but the newest installment at the Knox County Fair is designed to be educational as well.

Named “The Commodity Carnival,” the game was developed by CME Group and 4-H to provide young fairgoers with an interactive way to learn about the business risks and costs associated with raising and selling livestock. The game was created in 2012, but made its debut at the Knox County Fair this year. It’s free to play, suitable for all ages and no prior agricultural experience is necessary.

“If they have not raised animals themselves, this is a great way to show that it takes forethought and planning. It takes money,” said Larry Hall, junior fair board advisor and OSU Extension educator for 4-H Youth Development.

The game has two stages. First, participants receive a plastic Easter egg symbolizing their animal and fill it with different items that represent resources needed to keep an animal healthy, such as food and medicine. Once a child selects their resources, the egg is weighed. A proper combination will result in an Easter egg that weighs between 37 and 40 grams.

“They have to guess and if their egg does not weigh enough, they have to re-evaluate,” Hall explained. “If it’s too heavy, they can take something out.”
After getting the animal to an appropriate weight, participants put a chip in a custom Plinko board. If their chip hits certain pegs, they incur a risk factor that hurts their profit margin. Risks on the board range from a fence that needs mending to a severe drought hitting the farm.

“Producers of market animals put money into it and hope to get money back, but it’s a gamble,” said Hall. “That’s where the Plinko comes in.”

Children get a small prize if their animal makes weight, but every participant gets a cardboard cow hat regardless of the outcome.

The Commodity Carnival’s availability has been limited, since there aren’t always enough volunteers to cover the station, but Hall said he’s seen between 60 and 70 kids play the game so far.

“They are curious at first,” he said. “The kids get competitive. They get into it.”

Hall said the carnival game has also started some conversations between generations.

“I had some grandparents talking to their grandchildren about their experiences back in the day,” he said. “It’s neat to see the parents and grandparents talking about when they were growing up on the farm, how they did things.”

If things go according to plan, the booth will be open inside the 4-H building Friday evening from 3-5 p.m. Children of all ages can also play the digital version by downloading the Risk Ranch app.

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Katie Ellington: 740-397-5333 or and on Twitter, @kt_ellington