IT'S FAIR TIME
Where rubber meets the roadfor 4-H projects
Almost every 4-H member in Hatter Creek had a calf. They were all lined up to come to the county fair, but did not show, afraid their calves weren't as good as some others. In the end, we got trucks and brought the calves and youth owners to the fair.
—LATAH COUNTY, circa 1930
To experience classic 4-H—the nerves, the excitement, the sweetness, the tears—go to your county fairgrounds the hour judging ends, doors open, and children race to see if their project won a ribbon. Or, come watch the day 4-H youth “fit and show” to judges their steers, goats, sheep, and swine.
For months and often a year, 4-Hers spend countless hours setting goals, feeding, grooming, clipping, measuring, sewing, giving talks about their projects, writing data in log books, dreaming, hoping.
“County, district, and state fairs across Idaho and North America are the stage for
4-H members to showcase their work,” says Arlinda Nauman, director of UI Extension 4-H Youth Development. “Many work all year for this moment.”
Nearly all county fairs held each year in North America feature a 4-H component. Besides animal projects, 4-Hers compete in numerous categories such as business, citizenship, clothing, engineering, economics, fitness, leadership, marketing, science, and technology.
“Seeing a little kid in the arena controlling a 1,200-pound steer before judges still gets me,” says Scott Nash, UI Extension educator in Bingham County. Nash grew up in Idaho 4-H, met his wife in 4-H, and raised his children as 4-Hers. Today he teaches 4-H youth not only how to show animals at the fair, but also analytical and communication skills—how to judge animals and explain to judges what makes one animal superior to another.
Nash insists that every youth who enters a project at the fair “is a winner” because he/she set and met a goal. But that blue, red, or white ribbon still brings an extra grin. While the sale of many 4-H animals may bring tears to the eyes of some owners, funds from animal sales can go towards college or other needs.
photo by Barry Kough, LewistonMorning Tribune
4-Hers make lifelong friends at fairs. Rick Waitley, Boise, executive director of the Food Producers of Idaho, says many of his best friends still date back to his Idaho
4-H days. He sees both fairs and 4-H as community builders. In an era when U.S. Department of Education data indicate that more than 80 percent of 7th through 12th graders get no formal agricultural education, Waitley adds, “fairs and 4-H serve a vital role in educating the population about where their food comes from.”