Thursday, July 27, 2023

Fair Weather

Still smiling (at least for the camera) on Sunday afternoon after a successful fair!

It's been "fair weather" the last couple of weeks around here. And I'm not talking temperature or precipitation.

The girls were here for the Stafford County Fair. They didn't get to stay until the end because judging for their Shawnee County 4-H Fair began. Then, last weekend, we went to Topeka to see the culmination of a year's worth of 4-H projects for Kinley and Brooke. They had quite a fan club, since Eric's parents (and our friends) Alan and Christy were also there.

Since I led with Kinley's photography achievements last time (click HERE for that blog), I'm kicking off the Shawnee County Fair review with Brooke. This was Brooke's second year in 4-H and her second year in the foods and nutrition project.

At their fair, they take a photo of the food and then show the picture and a ribbon sticker - not the actual food.

She got a purple on her Caramel-Filled Chocolate Cookies and a blue on her Apricot Bundt cake. Both are recipes that Jill entered in 4-H during her Stafford County 4-H foods days. (The cookie was slightly modified.) We got to sample practice versions at their house during the weekend. They were mighty tasty!

She got two blues for her arts and crafts projects. Her painting ...

... and her tissue flowers. (I remember making bigger versions as a kid!)
In her second year in clothing buymanship, Brooke got reserve champion for her tennis outfit and champion for her dressy outfit for the buymanship judging.
In the style show portion, the script was flipped. She got reserve champion for her dressy outfit.

And she got champion for her tennis outfit.
Here's a better smile, but without the accessories. (It was the last thing of the fair. She was ready to be done.)
On Saturday, she represented the family and helped with the annual pancake feed that serves as a fundraiser for the 4-H program.  Part of the fun is working with 4-H friends.

All the Grandmas and Grandpas were served by these lovely ladies and other 4-Hers. But Kinley and dog Summer had a dog show to get to!

They got a purple ribbon in showmanship. Things didn't go quite as well with obedience and agility. However, this was the first year for both of them. They worked hard by going to training classes with their 4-H club and the Humane Society, but both are novices. Summer is just a year old - basically still a puppy - and there were lots of distractions. (I will testify that they have made TONS of progress!)

They'll keep working at it.

Kinley had a banner year. Besides her purple-ribbon photography, she got champion for her framed and matted dog portraits in the arts and crafts division. 

Her tennis picture - made with painted beans - got a blue. (She got the idea at the Stafford County Fair and decided to do the tennis ball since she's a tennis player. Thanks Taci and family for the how-tos!)

She got a purple on her two-layer cake, decorated to look like a pizza.

And she got reserve champion in the 9-11 age division for her angel food cake. Her mother and I especially saw that as a victory: Our angel food cake attempt when Jill was a 4-Her was the least successful thing we ever tried. When we turned it over to cool, it fell right out on the counter. My Grandma Neelly's angel food cakes were superior. I guess the ability to make them skipped a few generations!

Sure, it's fun to collect ribbons. But 4-H is about way more than the fair at the end of the year. 

I pledge my head to clearer thinking
My heart to greater loyalty

My hands to larger service

And my health to better living

For my club, my community, my country and my world.

The 4-H Pledge, Written in 1919 by Kansas 4-H Leader Otis Hall

It would probably be a better world if all of humanity would think about the principles that 4-Hers vow to uphold. Clearer thinking, greater loyalty, larger service, healthy living, better living ... those are all attributes that would do this old world a whole lot of good.

For more than 120 years, 4-H has been changing lives. Back in 2006, we celebrated 100 years of Kansas 4-H. The youth program has been part of the national landscape since 1902.

Me with a 4-H foods and nutrition project talk

 The girls are the fourth generation in our family to be involved in the Kansas 4-H program. My parents were members back in the 1940s in Pratt County. Both were members of the Lincoln Bluebirds 4-H Club in Pratt County, the club that my siblings and I later joined. (During my time in the club, we consolidated with another club and became the Lincoln Climbers.)

All four of their children and all seven of their grandchildren were part of the 4-H program, two in Pratt County in the same club their grandparents attended, two in Stafford County and three in Clay County. Now that continues for five of their 10 great-grandchildren in Clay and Shawnee Counties. 

Jill and Runaway, her bucket calf.

Randy's parents were leaders in the Stafford County 4-H program, too, though we're not sure they were 4-H members themselves. For a dozen years, Randy & I were community leaders of the Corn Valley 4-H Club, the same club Randy was a part of back when he took his first cow to the fair. I'm still the 4-H foods superintendent at the Stafford County Fair. 

Randy with one of his first 4-H beef projects

Eric's family also has lots of ties to 4-H, especially Grandpa Alan, who served as an extension agent and director in both Kansas and Iowa. 

The 4-H website says:

The 4-H idea is simple: help young people and their families gain the skills they need to be proactive forces in their communities and develop ideas for a more innovative economy. That idea was the catalyst to begin the 4-H movement, and those values continue today.

The 4-H program continues to MAKE THE BEST BETTER!

I'm thankful that it's been all that and more for my family ... and will continue to be, no matter the color of the ribbon.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Picture Perfect


Kinley's face said it all. 

She and I had a mighty good showing in open class photography at the Stafford County Fair.

This was Kinley's first year in 4-H photography. We worked together on it all year, and she also took several photos on her own. While the girls were here, we chose and mounted her eight 4-H entries for the Shawnee County Fair. (That was the maximum number allowed at her fair.) 

Kinley and her 4-H entries for the Shawnee County Fair

But, once those decisions were made, we still had "leftover" photos. Since the girls were going to be here for the Stafford County Fair, Kinley entered nine of her photos in open class.

Her colored pencil photo won Reserve Grand Champion overall - chosen from among all the youth, teen and adult entries. My photo of aspens, taken as we traveled toward the north rim of the Grand Canyon last fall, was Grand Champion overall.

"How would you have felt if I'd gotten the first place, Grandma?" Kinley asked as we stood in front of the exhibit.

"I would have been just as happy," I told her. And I meant every word. What fun it was to help Kinley with photography, a hobby I love to do!

In all, she got seven blues and two reds in the youth division at the Stafford County Fair. She got a ribbon on every entry, so she did better than I did. I had eight blues, four reds and two whites, with six of my entries not receiving ribbons.

She entered a similar photo in the 4-H division of the Shawnee County Fair. (It was just cropped off center for the classic Rule of Thirds photo principle.) And she got overall Reserve Grand Champion at that fair, too! (Grandma and Kinley were pretty excited yet again!)

And another of her 4-H photos - featuring Crayons - got reserve champion in the 0-3 years of experience color division. In all, she only got one red out of her eight photos entered in her first 4-H competition. All the rest were blue or purple.

We told Brooke that part of Kinley's success was due to her fantastic action model. (I also had some entries featuring Brooke on the soccer field.)


I think this was the first time ever that I didn't enter any photos in the "Agriculture" category. That's not to say I never will. We still own our ground, and agriculture is all around us. But the wheat wasn't pretty this year, so it didn't get paparazzi sessions like it usually does. 

I'd never had so many travel photos entered in one fair. 

From Zion National Park, Blue ribbon, Scenic landscape

From Arches National Park, blue ribbon, selfie
From Grand Canyon North Rim, black and white, blue, Human Interest

From Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, black and white, Landscape

From Johnny Morris' Wonders of Wildlife Museum & Aquarium, Springfield, MO, jellyfish, color Miscellaneous
But I also had some blues in my own backyard ... literally.

Backyard nest, Blue, black and white, Nature

And even from my bathroom.

View from my bathroom window on a frosty morning, blue, black and white, miscellaneous

I was also pleased to place in the Stafford County Economic Development photo contest. The photo I took of story hour at the Nora Larabee Memorial Library won the Places category and a couple of others got honorable mention.

I also got a blue ribbon on the retirement book I gave to Randy last Christmas.

All in all, it was a great fair season!

It may be hard to live up to the "photo finishes" at next year's fairs. As I reminded Kinley, judging is one person's opinion on one day. Different judge, different day, different results. But we'll happily celebrate the results this year. 

More from the Shawnee County Fair in the next blog post.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

It Was a GRAND Time!


It was a GRAND time with our GRANDS! Just how many activities can you pack into a few days? We did our best to find out. Kinley and Brooke came to visit last week. We met Jill, Eric and the girls in Salina to start the whirlwind week of activities. 

None of us had been to The Garage, a fairly new automotive museum in Salina, so that was our first stop. Jill was able to use The Sunflower App to get their whole family in for free! If you're a Kansas resident and you haven't checked out The Sunflower App, you should. It offers free or reduced admission to more than 115 sites in Kansas as a learning opportunity for Kansas kids. What a deal! 

Of course, there were fantastic cars and trucks at The Garage.

When I saw the 1942 one-ton Dodge wheat truck, I told Randy he needed a photo. The truck was on loan from the Kansas Flywheels Museum, also in Salina. It had been purchased by Arnold and Theresa Swanson in Holyrood in 1950 for hauling wheat to the local grain elevator at Kipp. Neither of us drove anything quite that old in the harvest field.

Besides the automotive history represented, there were several interactive areas for the girls.

They used virtual reality to "paint" a truck door. (Their dad and grandpa had a turn, too.) I missed getting photos, but there was also a welding simulator.

Kinley tried "driving." She admitted it was a little tough to see over the steering wheel.

Grandpa, Brooke and Jill raced pinewood derby cars down a race track.

After saying goodbye to the parents, we took the girls to Salina's Center for Theater Arts to see their production of "Finding Nemo Junior."

Grandma couldn't resist a downtown mural in Salina with a couple of her favorite things - music and sunflowers ... and, of course, two cute girls.

While we had a great time in Salina, our time on the farm was packed to the brim, too. We took the girls fishing at the pasture on the Ninnescah. 


 Brooke was brave and touched the worms.

Grandpa said it was OK to use his jeans to wipe off dirty hands. We didn't catch any fish, but we enjoyed the evening anyway.

Jill had signed them up for swimming lessons at the Stafford Pool. (Thanks Candi and Michelle!) Grandpa was their chauffeur most days. That explains why there are fewer photos from those outings.

One day after swimming, he took them to the Stafford golf course for a little putting. Again, it was the only photo.

We had an outing to visit Great Grandpa and Grandma Moore.

The girls helped with the 4-H foods judging at the Stafford County Fair. Even though our days as 4-H parents are long gone, I still serve as the superintendent for foods at the fair. The girls were troopers. They helped me set up the day before.

And they also were great assistants during the foods judging and clean up. Kinley got to reunite with a friend from 4-H camp last year. Ironically, Kinley and Reagan were in the same cabin. Jill and Reagan's mom, Holly, were team demonstration queens back in their day. We certainly made a lot of pretzels and yeast rolls. So it was fun to continue to build that connection.
Kinley entered nine photos in open class. I'll talk about those more in an upcoming blog post. 

But the county fair provided some other activities and fun ... and a LOT of heat! The girls dressed up for Spirit Day. 

The Extension interns gave kids an opportunity to decorate their own tie-died t-shirts.
Grandpa put Brooke's name on the "tallest sunflower" entry. It got a blue. (Of course, it was the only entry, but a blue is a blue!)

Salina isn't the only town with a mural. Before church, I had the girls pose in front of this Stafford Main Street mural.
They also got to visit a new local establishment, The Frosty Bean, for a Frozen Trojan, soft serve ice cream topped with slushy
Thankfully, Grandpa didn't disappoint, and we had one kitten for the girls to admire.

They ended up naming it Muffin.

For our movie night, Grandma had to work in a little bit of nostalgia. I served the popcorn in tin bowls that I brought home from my Grandma and Grandpa Neelly's house. So they ate out of bowls that had belonged to their Great Great Grandparents!

Just how long did it take for a Grandma and Grandpa to recover? Well, we're about to head to join the girls and family for the Shawnee County Fair. So, ready or not, let's pack a few more days full!