These county fair things are no joke, you guys. No joke at all.
This year was another 4H year and though it didn’t go as planned, it was still enough of a success to provide proud moments for my little 4H’ers.
We entered two chickens this year for the fair which was done at break-neck, last-minute speed. I was thinking the girls would need to scratch due to us not having the proper paperwork for our birds. It is a requirement that documentation on the health of the chicks purchased be provided from the hatchery the chicks were purchased from.
Then, I was informed by the “gate keeper” of the poultry barn that the local mill we purchased our chickens from was able to provide that paperwork. So, with 45 minutes to spare, the girls and I ran to the mill, got the paperwork from our good friend Jim (along with a handful of tootsie rolls), buzzed home to catch the two chickens that were eligible and zipped back to the fair grounds with 15 minutes to spare.
We had already turned in the craft projects the girls put together so we were able to focus on what needed to be done.
It was a learning experience, that’s for sure. Our chickens were not this years hatch, so they did not qualify. However – Sammy was able to do Showmanship and earned a blue ribbon for her efforts. Her craft project – a Littlest Pet Shop Classroom – also earned her a blue ribbon.
Mady’s in the Cloverbud level so the ribbons they earn are green for participation. Once in third grade, that’s where the game gets real.
And the learning is something I’m working on, especially now with Sammy being able to qualify for State Fair trips. Next year is going to be even more insane – projects, chickens, goats AND sheep. The amount of work that goes into this is not small, by any means. There are categories the animals need to fit into, age requirements, health certifications…it’s a bit daunting, to be honest.
And participating in livestock shows does not mean you bring your animal, show them, and you’re done. At least it doesn’t with our county.
There’s a day and time to check in (usually the first day of the fair). From there, you settle your animal in the assigned cage/pen. The animals are then there for the duration of the fair. Ours was Thursday to Sunday, the exhibits being released at 7pm, Sunday evening. They have to remain fed, watered, and well taken care of, meaning their cages need to be cleaned out. Though I’m not sure how the judging works on that portion of it, attention is paid to how well you care for your livestock while they’re at the fair.
That being said…you had better believe that by 7pm on Sunday, our ladies had had enough and wanted to be back home in their coop.
And honestly…I was done too. The heat index was relatively high for most of it and the girls had ride bracelets for Saturday from 1pm-6pm. We paired up with a friend of Sammy’s and her friend’s mom and I bounced from shady spot to shady spot, seeking any reprieve we could find from the blazing sun. All four days, after bracelets were worn out and Sammy went through her interview for Showmanship, were spent wandering around, looking at the exhibits, heading over to the horse arena to cheer on our neighbor girl who was competing for her last year in 4H, watching the Ranch Rodeo, waiting to see if we’d won a drawing for free chicks or ducks and finally, collecting our exhibits and heading home.
Morning chores and evening chores needed to be completed every day. Sammy did a great job, giving her chickens affection, making sure their shavings were cleaned out, food dishes were filled and water was topped off. I was very proud of how responsible she was.
And now…we detox. We rid our bodies of all the cotton candy, lemonade and fair food we injected, catch up on rest, stay out of the sun because four days of it was pretty intense. I’ll get motivated at some point, I swear. But right now…it’s nice not to have to do anything.
It sounds like a lot. And it is a lot. Truthfully. We’re not even in it as deep as some people who have multiple breeds they show. A friend of Sammy’s had craft projects, meat goats and swine that he showed this year. For his first year competing seriously and facing an opportunity to place, it was impressive.
The pride Sammy and Mady felt made every moment of exhaustion worth it. Watching them show their projects off to their family and friends had my mommy pride soaring.
We’ll do it again next year, and the year after, and probably the year after. It’s a great opportunity for them to experience the fair on a deeper level, learn about animal husbandry and support other 4H’ers.
For anyone thinking about getting their children involved in 4H, I strongly recommend it. The fair is a great experience, but so are the community projects and events that take place over the course of the year.
And this face right here…this face is the face of a proud 4H’er.