PREBLE COUNTY — 4-H has been a part of my family for 4 generations. My grandma told about making clothing from feed sacks back when she was in 4-H and girls mostly did cooking and sewing. My mom grew up as a 4-Her, was a Junior Fair Board member and was actively involved in the Fair. I was involved with 4-H and the fair growing up as well. One of the highlights of my 4-H experience was representing 4-H on the Ohio State Fair Junior Fair Board. As president of this organization, I helped welcome fair-goers to the Sale of Champions at the State Fair, spoke at banquets, helped with fair events and much more. Now my own children are having their own experiences as 4-H members.
For years, the fair has been a place where young people who are members of youth organizations like 4-H and FFA, have the opportunity to shine. It is the final step in a series of educational activities that are designed not just as a method to complete a project but as a way to develop the youth. Showing animals, modeling in the style revue, competing in a cooking competition and so much more are all ways that members gain skills that will last a lifetime.
As I read some of the insights that the 4-H members who wrote for the paper (and an earlier preview edition) shared, there were some common themes. One was that 4-H and FFA are about family. It is the family that supports the members who are completing projects. It is the family that cheers them on through successes and failures. It is also obvious that family does not just include parents, grandparents and siblings but also the adult advisors who help them learn and the members of the wider community that sponsor awards, watch the shows and support in so many other ways.
Fair is about friends. Some members have fair friends whom they might only see once a year and friends who are there year-round. Because the fair is its own community, these young people form a close bond. They stay on the fairgrounds all week, help each other with work to be done, eat meals together, and play together. They build friendships that can carry past the fair and into the future.
4-H and FFA are also about life skills. In 4-H, projects are the way that we help young people build skills that carry beyond the project work. As you watch these young people during the week of the Fair, know that this is the culmination of weeks and weeks of work. As the youth grow through the program, they begin to see how all the hard work pays off in ways they might never expect. It might be the classroom presentation that is easier for our 4-H and FFA members because they are used to communication with people and being in front of an audience. It might be the young babysitter who is a superstar because he or she can fix meals because of the cooking skills learned through a 4-H project. It might be the student who uses the time management skills learned in 4-H and FFA to reach academic goals. The examples are endless.
The insights that our 4-Hers have shared are representative of all of our members. Next year, we will share more with you. I encourage everyone to come to the fair and see what our youth our doing, to support them and be proud of them. The fair is truly about community and we invite you to come and share with us at the 2015 Preble County Fair!
Christy Millhouse is Preble County’s 4-H Extension Educator.