A fair learning experience

I can count on one hand the number of times I went to the county fair when I was growing up. I wasn’t in 4-H or FFA and we didn’t really exhibit anything. I was a town kid, and back then, it was just the rural kids that got involved in 4-H.

But now that I live in Hamilton County, going to the fair is just a given for our family.

Ever since I started working for the DFJ, the fair has been a part of my summer. There were long hours spent watching and photographing livestock shows, the evenings seeing young women vie for the Hamilton County Fair queen crown and the bands and racing action.

For the few years, my visits to the fair have been about more than just work. It’s been about my son and his 4-H involvement. He entered several projects this year in food and nutrition, visual arts and dog obedience.

He’s been working with our old dog, Toby, teaching him new tricks, how to behave and how to respond to commands. My son and my furkid have become quite a team and work well together. They have gotten to the point that they can even work off leash. Toby seems to have learned a little patience and to focus a bit more. He didn’t seem as distracted as he’s been in the past.

For his visual arts entries, he made two stepping stones. He made a couple for his grandmother and aunt last Christmas. For his fair entries, he embedded gems and crystals in the stones to form a nature design. One was a flower with butterflies fluttering around the blossom. The other was a seascape with fish, seaweed and rocks below a squiggly iridescent wake. Both of the stones were awarded blue ribbons. Not a bad effort for his first exhibit entry.

He also whipped up a batch of his famous chocolate snickerdoodles which won him a blue ribbon in the open class last year at the fair. He also received a blue ribbon from the foods judge this year. She offered him some tips for ways to improve the cookies, which Daniel took to heart. He immediately made a new batch and found out that she was right.

I’m really enjoying seeing him explore new projects in 4-H. We try to be realistic about the number of projects to attempt. He wants to be sure he has time to finish them properly and make them appealing, eye-catching or delicious – whatever the case may be.

I’m also very happy with what he’s learning from his 4-H club activities. There are some terrific leaders who really care about the kids and provide a lot of guidance to them. Combined with the leadership offered by older 4-H kids and that’s a winning combination for success. Young people who choose to be involved and work hard can learn so much. I hope that he sticks with it and continues to grow and challenge himself with new projects and new adventures.