Cotton candy. Ferris wheels. Blue ribbons. Show-ready animals. What do all these things have in common? They are staples of county fairs all over the country.
County fair season is about to begin with the Redwood County Fair in Redwood Falls and Yellow Medicine County Fair in Canby both kicking off on Thursday.
On Tuesday, I had the privilege to judge the Cloverbud exhibits at the Redwood County Fair. I really enjoy quizzing the young 4-Hers about their projects.
It can be comical at times to hear them talk about their projects.
Every year, at least one, if not more, of the kids tells me the only reason they did their project was, “Because Mom said so.” When asked what they liked about their “Mom Said So” projects, most replied something like, “I don’t like anything about it.
I didn’t learn anything and I will never, ever do this again!”
No matter if I am judging indoor projects, or livestock, I always ask the 4-Her what they learned and if they would do this project again, what would they do differently?
After all, that’s the point of 4-H.
To have fun.
Not to accumulate trophies and ribbons. That’s just icing on the cake. Almost four years ago, one of my best friends Cody, was asked to judge dairy goat showmanship at the Minnesota State Fair.
Typically, Minnesota judges are frowned upon to judge, but there was an emergency with one of the judges, so Cody stepped in.
Cody was honored to be asked, but very nervous. Our state fair is a big deal.
I volunteered to ride along with him that morning. We talked about our judging strategies and I told him, “Make sure you ask them what they have learned this year.
It’s a simple question, but you can learn a lot about the 4-Her from their answer.”
Cody exemplified what it truly means to be a youth judge that day.
It was a true honor to watch one of my best friends judge the state show and give each child a chance to share their knowledge and learn something new, no matter what.
This time of year, it’s crucial to remember the real reason for 4-H. To all you 4-Hers, including my brothers, sister and lease kids: Winning is great.
But learning, gaining new skills, friends, and memories is more important. So is sharing your knowledge and talents with others.
To all my friends that are 4-H alumni and now moving into adult leader and judging roles: We have so much more to offer the kids than just a ribbon or trophy.
This summer, take some time to visit local county fairs.
If you have the opportunity, stop and visit with a 4-Her. And ask them what they’ve learned.