Wednesday, July 15, 2015

All's "Fair!"

Jill's very first year of 4-H foods judging

Today is the first day of the Stafford County Fair. Even though I haven't had 4-Hers at my house for the past nine years, I'm still a superintendent for 4-H Foods and Nutrition. Yesterday, I spent part of the day setting up for the judging. This morning, I'll be at the fairgrounds by 8 to be ready for the judging, which begins at 9.
She looks scared to death to talk to the judge. The innate talker finally won out in subsequent 4-H years! I also remember that cake. It was entered in a microwave division. It wasn't that good, but we didn't know much at the time. There's no microwave class at the 2015 Stafford County Fair. That's a good thing!
This is the fifth year we're doing the judging in a nearby church basement, which certainly helps combat the heat on the fairgrounds -- until I need to set up the displays and get everything organized there. (THANKS to the Stafford Church of Christ for this community service. With triple-digit temperatures expected again today, I am grateful!)

Randy will help weigh in pigs this evening and then will help during the swine judging on Thursday morning. So, even though this is the ninth year we are "4-Her-less," we still find small ways to help out. (True confessions: We are definitely not as involved as we once were. We retired after a dozen years as community leaders when Brent graduated, and we gave up our project leader jobs a few years after that.)

Still, why do we (and a bunch of other 4-Her-less people) continue to show up to work? It's because of what 4-H did for me and my family.
A 4-H talk circa 1973 or so
Both Randy and I are 4-H veterans, he in Stafford County and me in Pratt County.
Randy in 1967, a 5th grader and his first year in Stafford County 4-H with his first 4-H steer.
Jill and Brent both joined 4-H as soon as they were old enough. I look at that photo of Jill with her first-year cake (the photos at the top of this post), and I think about how much she (and I) grew and learned. She went from that uneasy first-year 4-Her to a confident leader.
She chose her profession - a registered dietitian - at least in part because of 4-H foods and nutrition.

Randy continues to advise people on their bucket calf and beef projects (when asked) for much the same reason. Our kids learned so much through that project. And their livestock premium auctions proceeds also helped them pay some of their college expenses.
They both learned that it takes perseverance. You sometimes have to dig in your heels to get things accomplished - literally and figuratively. There's no better lesson on that than trying to break a bucket calf to lead.
4-H is a powerful youth program:
Young people in 4-H are three times more likely to contribute to their communities than youth not participating in 4-H. 4-Hers all across the nation are empowered to take on the leading issues of their towns, counties and states and make a lasting difference. ... 4-H youth get the hands-on, real-world experience they need to become leaders and to make positive differences in their communities.
"The 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development"
 from Tufts University 
I, too, have case study after case study to back it up. My research isn't done in the hallowed halls of a university like Tufts. It's more in the sweat produced by working side-by-side with 4-Hers, parents and other volunteers on a hot day in July.
Brent's final year of 4-H - 2006
I'll have even more real-life examples when the last of the exhibits comes down Saturday evening. Good luck 4-Hers, parents and volunteers! And, if you're in the neighborhood, stop by the Stafford County Fairgrounds on North Main in Stafford, Wednesday through Saturday, and be part of the fair!

This post is revised from the archives.


  1. I taught school for years in South Florida, and I remember sharing with my middle schoolers all about 4H and FFA, and how the kids get so involved. They looked at me like I had 2 heads, not a clue!! The closest they got to animals was at the annual Youth Fair, and even then most of the kids only went to the fair to eat food and go on rides, never even went to the tent area. Funny....!

    1. That's too bad. There's a lot to be learned beyond the carnival. (Our little fair doesn't even have a carnival.) I think it demonstrates the disconnect between rural and urban. Thanks for taking time to comment.