Crickets are all you’ll hear from Hog Creek Homestead from the middle of July to the middle of August! It’s fair time here. This is crunch time for us. I expect it’s this way for most 4-H families. A whole year’s worth of work comes down to six days. 4-H is a family tradition for us. My grandparents showed cattle. My Mom did Dairy and Horse projects from 10 years old through high school. I showed Dogs, Horses, Sheep and various other small projects. Our kid’s show (or have shown) Rabbits, Swine, mechanical projects, welding projects, photography (you’ll see a lot of our daughter’s images on this page – including the one at the top), and new this year, Goats.
The first 4-H club was established in 1902 and called the Tomato Club. The concept of 4-H was designed to share agricultural improvements discovered by the universities with youth who would then adapt this knowledge and share it with adults in the rural communities. It was a way to disseminate information. Twelve years later the cooperative extension was created, and both entities exist to this day. 4-H clubs can be found in rural and urban areas and empowers youth by promoting volunteerism, leadership, and self-development. Check out more information about 4-H here.
Our kids have served in roles of reporter, secretary, and president and have done volunteer work such as planting flowers, singing carols and decorating Christmas cookies in nursing homes. Each month the kids participate in a meeting that follows parliamentary procedure and determine the activities the club will be involved with, how to fundraise, and how to distribute funds. Generally, a member of the club will do a presentation at the conclusion of the monthly meeting about an event they’ve recently participated in or a demonstration about some type of skill that they have.
Beyond the monthly meetings, the members prepare for various fair projects. Members select the type of projects they wish to present, report the type of education they have pursued to complete the project and finally, meet with a judge who evaluates the project, asks questions and determines the level of award the project receives. 4-H members receive a small monetary award in addition to the ribbon placement.
Animal projects are judged slightly different. Small animals, such as cats, fish, guinea pigs, hamsters, etc. are shown as above while dogs, horses, goats, sheep, rabbits, dairy cattle, beef cattle, and swine are presented in a show ring, in competition with other animals or exhibitors. Classes are typically judged based on the confirmation of the animal or the showmanship abilities of the exhibitor.
The large animals are worked with once or twice daily for months in preparation for the fair. Livestock are walked daily, and the 4-H member tames and trains the animal to lead and to set up, so they look their best. Animals that are considered “market” animals, such as beef, sheep, swine, and in some fairs, goats may be sold during an auction at the fair. Market animals are raised with the intent to go to the market, and this project focuses not only on the exhibitor and confirmation of the animal but also the financial aspect of the project. Participants are required to track their expenses and compare that to the income they receive from the sale of the animal. They are also (in our county) required to speak with businesses to ask them to be a “bidder” at the auction. This ensures people will attend the sale and sparks some friendly competition for the bidders. Buyers receive pictures with the exhibitor and the animal as recognition of their support of the sale and of the exhibitors. Many businesses in our area proudly display their buyer photos.
Usually, the final week before the fair is filled with many last minute tasks. There are lists upon lists. We keep binders full of information and previous year’s lists to help make this time as smooth as possible. I’ve become so savvy as to have a list for each day leading up to the day the animals are hauled to the fairgrounds. “Fitting” the animals is on the list every day during this time. Fitting is trimming the animals’ hair with clippers to accentuate their good points and hide areas that aren’t the best. We typically work at this for a week, early in the evening when it begins to cool off. We walk the animals first, then spray them down to cool them off and then take them back to clean pens and shave until they (or we) lose our patience. Then it’s time to quit and work on something different.
Baking projects and flower projects are indeed last minute projects as we bake the day before the judging and flowers are picked and arranged the morning of the judging to ensure they look their best.
And finally, photography always ends up being a last minute project as well…. Grrrrrrrrrr. Let’s take this year as an example. Pictures were finally wrapped up & selected on Friday night. We took a jump drive into the local photo processing booth and ordered them for same day pick up on Saturday, then drove to the fairgrounds where we set up our 4-H banners for our club’s animal pens, then picked up the photos after we finished. Sunday we mounted the pictures on the appropriate sized foam board backing and then decided that one of the pictures would not suit the judge’s critical eye. So, we went back to the same spot to try to get additional pictures of the same subject. An hour later, we downloaded seventy-plus photos and narrowed it down to one (the image of the flower at the top of this page). We prepared a board for it and will pick it up and mount it on the way to get it judged on Tuesday!
I don’t think it would be the fair without the last minute hustle! Hopefully, things go smoothly, the animals stay calm and relaxed, and the exhibitors learn a lot and have a great time doing it! Hog Creek Homestead will be back in the saddle soon thereafter… our next project, goat breeding! Stay Tuned, oh, and stop by your local fair this summer. These kids have worked hard and are happy to share their knowledge with you!