Fair season is 4-H season

By Jane Stebbins Special to The Leader
Posted 8/14/19

Nine-year-old Ruby Groussman’s eyes lit up when she talked about her photography entries in the 4-H and open class competitions at the Jefferson County Fair.

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Fair season is 4-H season

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Nine-year-old Ruby Groussman’s eyes lit up when she talked about her photography entries in the 4-H and open class competitions at the Jefferson County Fair.

One depicts a chickadee about to fly from a fence post, another of dancers in Vietnam and an extreme close-up shows her chicken, ready to peck the camera lens.

Lillian Morrison, 14, hoped her long-hair tabby cat, Sherlock, would win and he did: Champion Long Hair Cat; Champion Feline Good Citizen and for Sherlock’s human, Champion in cage design. She also won an intermediate group blue ribbon for showmanship.

“He’s massive — he weighs 15.4 pounds,” she said. “He’s big and sweet and super chill with everything.”

The kids in 4-H represent today’s pool of youth pursuing an array of interests, from weaving to synchronization in the horse drill team. Jefferson County Fair results weren’t available at press time, but for some participants, those shiny blue ribbons aren’t entirely the point.

“Agriculture is the life-blood of the program,” said local 4-H coordinator Tanya Barnett. “But more often, it’s the off-beat programs where people are connecting.”

Two hundred youth are enrolled in 4-H in Jefferson County, and 70 adult volunteers guide them through the learning process of the project they’re pursuing.

“We have a steady flow of kids — sometimes generations — coming through,” Barnett said. “‘Learning by doing,’ is our motto. It’s hands-on, experiential.”

4-H began in 1902 through land grant universities and extension offices. Originally based in agriculture to help the South get back on its feet after the Civil War, the clubs have since branched to comprise most everything to do with everyday life.

4-H youth will be well-represented in embroidery, painting, canning, archery, robotics, theater — and traditional animal husbandry, from cavies (a small rodent) to horses. They will answer questions posed by the judges, and others asked by the public.

Their work can be time-consuming —many kids are feeding calves and ensuring their health over the months until fair time. Much is educational; the robots aren’t just LEGOs, but moving plastic that comes alive through circuitry patterns the kids learned. The needlecrafts are painstakingly detailed; the secret ingredient in that incredible jam is, well, a secret.

Sophia Lukas, 17, has been involved with 4-H for 11 years, this year entering her cat, Cloudy.

She had a good outing, too: Champion cat costume, Reserve Champion in cage design, Senior Blue Reserve Champion for showmanship, and a blue ribbon in the Long Hair Cat competition.

In past years, she’s worked in robotics.

“That needs a lot of teamwork,” she said. “You have to have the same goals or it’d just become chaos.”

Some are eager to win a rosette. Others are happy to participate.

“I’m OK with anything that happens,” Groussman said. “It’s OK if other people win.”

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