Fair may be just over a month away, but FFA and 4-H members from all over the county are in full swing preparing for the week of July 21st through the 28th.
While most people just show up for one or two days of the fair and enjoy the rides and food it has to offer, 4-H and FFA kids have to be there every day for shows, auctions, and just general upkeep on their animal’s pens. This work doesn’t start the moment the fair begins but rather weeks and months prior.
The work actually begins while school is still in session normally in January. Each participant must fill out an application which is not due untill April, but kids planning on taking animals will have to pick out their project long before then. Most kids get their animals in December or January. Different animals are bred at different points in the year so they will be of optimal size during fair week. In the months before fair, for cows and goats, they practice walking their animals and getting them ready for the show. This includes training the animal in a walking harness and then onto a collar they will use on their animal while in the show. For pigs, members must work with controlling their pig when in a show arena and making sure their pigs are staying cool in the summer heat of the barns. For kids showing ducks, turkeys, chickens, or rabbits, the student must work with the animals to get them comfortable with being held and turned as they will be at the fair.
Kids also must be careful with watching their animals weight to make sure they are not under or overweight. There are multiple weigh-ins during the spring and summer to check animal growth process. This means kids must take their animals to the fairground in order to weigh them for fair officials.
Not only do the animals have to be ready for fair, the kids have to prove they know their type of animal well enough to properly take care of it and show them. This is tested at the annual two-day Skill-A-Thon held in the Arts and Craft building every year. Skill-A-Thon is mandatory for every 4-H member and it judges their knowledge and skill of their animal. Questions are over the anatomy, breeds, and equipment related to the animal they are taking to fair. Kids must earn a high enough score to be able to continue with raising their animal and showing them at fair
For kids doing miscellaneous projects, they must also complete a work book, but instead of Skill-A-Thon the kids must present their projects to judges during Project Judging. Each project has different requirements that must be met during this judging. There are multiple types of miscellaneous projects such as woodworking, scrapbooking, sewing, photography, cooking, small engines, and many others.
Along with making sure themselves in addition to their animals are ready for fair, the 4-H groups and FFA chapters have to make their pen and booth decorations. The theme of this year’s fair is “70th Fair... Our legacy lives on; The best is yet to come”. Booth decorations vary between groups as each has its own interpretation of the theme. On top of everything else that the 4-H members must do, they must also attend a certain amount of meetings to remain eligible to participate in the Fair. The decoration meeting counts toward meeting that goal.
Some groups are planning on decorating their animal pens and booths with birthday decorations to celebrate the 70th birthday of the fair. Others are planning on showing how the fair has changed over the past 70 years and what it may look like moving forward. No matter how they want to interpret the theme, the 4-H and FFA leaders along with members musthave meetings during the summer to plan out the decorations and actually start making them.
There are some differences between how 4-H and FFA members get ready for the fair. While 4-H members have Skill-A-Thon and Project Judging, FFA chapters have to attend a summer meeting and then schedule a home visit. The FFA leader will visit the students and check to make sure their project is still healthy. This includes checking the condition of the living space animals are kept in or checking the growth of the kid’s plants.
Even though it is a lot of hard work in the month leading up to the fair, all 4-H and FFA members look forward to the long summer days showing their animals and the warm summer nights spent with friends at the Clark County Fair.