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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Debbie Brown works on a butter cow during setup at the Utah State Fair in Salt Lake City Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012. Brown has been creating the butter cow for 15 years.

SALT LAKE CITY — Where else but the Utah State Fair would one be able to compete in a funeral potato cook-off, gawk at a "Hunger Games"-themed sculpture crafted from hundreds of pounds of butter or see cattle roughly the size of large dogs?

The Utah State Fair begins its 11-day run Thursday, featuring a schedule packed with attractions for young and old alike, says Utah State Fairpark executive director Clark Caras. 

The 157-year-old exhibition will offer fairgoers a mix of the traditional — pie baking and junior livestock shows — as well new attractions such as "Olympic" high diving from heights of 10 meters, a fried green Jell-O concession and an opportunity to get up close and personal with lemurs at the Lemurland of Madagascar exhibit.

"We're looking for 300,000 (attendees) for the 11-day run," Caras said.

The fair, themed "Live and in Color," runs through Sept. 16.

The event, which includes a carnival, rodeo performances, food booths and traditional home arts and fine arts exhibits, also offers a variety of concerts, some of which are free with fair admission but require seating tickets. Some of the featured acts include Jars of Clay, Parachute and pop star Sheena Easton.

The fair also includes a slate of concerts that require separate admission, including Wilson Phillips, Victoria Justice, Lonestar and impressionist Frank Caliendo.

Another crowd-pleaser, Caras said, will be the Utah Dairy Council Ice Cream Festival, an all-you-can-eat affair for a mere $3 per person. It starts at 3 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10.

This year's fair coincides with the 100th anniversary of 4-H in Utah, a youth development program that serves about 75,000 Utah children a year through clubs and after-school programs.

While most people associate 4-H with junior livestock, cooking and sewing competitions, Utah clubs offer experiences in more than 100 curriculum areas, including robotics and movie making, said Kevin Kesler, Utah's director of 4-H and youth programs.

The state fair is the culmination of each year's activities, when the winners of the county fairs compete against one another.

While grand championships and blue ribbons are sought-after rewards, Kesler said the program aims to teach skills that participants can use throughout their lives.

"The really important thing we teach are life skills needed to be successful in society, such as communication skills, leadership and being able to express their opinions," he said.

4-H is open to children from the third grade through their senior year of high school.

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One of the program's most notable alumnae is former Utah Gov. Olene Walker, who won the state's style review (a sewing and fashion contest) and then competed at the national 4-H contest in Chicago. There, she led a meeting in the boardroom of Kraft Foods.

Walker attributes her early training in public speaking and leadership to the 4-H program, Kesler said.

4-H Day at the fair will be Saturday, Sept. 15, Kesler said.

Admission to the fair is $10 for adults, $7 for children ages 6-12 and $7 for adults 62 and older. For information about discount admission to the fair and the carnival, visit www.utahstatefair.com.

Caras said there is plenty of on-site parking available for $6 per vehicle at Utah State Fairpark, 155 N. 1000 West.

E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com