The week of the Osceola County 4-H FFA Fair is one of my favorite times of the year. I get to spend five entire work days at the fairgrounds, watching and taking pictures of kids and teens show their skills in 4-H in various animal shows, interviewing the grand and reserve champions, enjoying the sunshine, and basically NOT being in the office looking at a computer screen. There’s not much better when it comes to my job!
I didn’t grow up in 4-H, and honestly didn’t even understand what it entails until two years ago, my first Osceola County Fair. Now that I know more, I have such a great respect for the youth who take the time working hard with their animal, preparing it to be the best it can be in both showmanship and market competitions. Many even go as far as picking out the parent animals, watching the babies being born and raising them until the next year’s fair. I see kids tirelessly work every day during fair week, mucking out pens, making sure their pig, goat, lamb, cow, horse, llama, chicken or rabbit has food and water, shearing and washing the animals before shows, and bouncing back and forth between consecutive competitions. They’re up at dawn, in bed after dusk. And they love it. They desire to be the best, yet are still great friends with their fellow competitors and often shake hands after each winner is announced.
That hard work can pay off, literally, as 4-H’ers can choose to sell their market animals at the fair auction. These kids often make a great deal of money, especially if they were awarded grand or reserve champion. Depending on the animal, they can make thousands of dollars from local companies and individuals who support them. The more animals sold, the more money made. Often, funds are saved for college or other large purchases like a car, but I’m sure the 4-H parents allow their child to have a small amount to spend on fun items.
This year for me was more of a reunion, as I have gotten to know some of the 4-H superintendents, youth and community members who attend the fair each year. I was happy to find I remembered names of some of the kids, and I’m learning more names as they win large awards. I pretty much have an all-access pass to the grounds because of my rapport with the county’s 4-H coordinator. I can go inside the show ring next to the judges during shows, get inside information before others and have the newspaper’s online photo gallery shamelessly plugged over the loud speaker. Even though I’m pulling incredibly long days, there’s not much I have to worry about concerning the fair, and I’m thankful.
Kids and teens showing poultry were thrown for a loop this fair season. Early in June, Michigan’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development banned all live bird shows and exhibits as a precaution against avian influenza, which was found in two cases in the state. So instead of the live birds on site, market chickens, turkeys and Cornish hens were processed before the fair and the 4-H’ers had to use plush birds during showmanship competition. It looked a little silly, and it was very different for the youth, but they and the judges adjusted well. It was definitely a learning experience!
I’m a little sad I only have two days left to cover! It’s been a great year and I’m very impressed with the livestock each 4-H’er has presented in the ring. I know once I move on to the next chapter in life, this fair is something I will miss very much.
Want to see more of the Osceola County 4-H FFA Fair? Check out the photo gallery of the pictures I’ve taken throughout the week by clicking here.
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