4-H members shine at Exhibit Day as fair week approaches
Dressed in his best jeans and a long-sleeved, button-down Western shirt, J.D. Case looked ready for nearly anything as he sat against a locker, awaiting his interview, in the hallway of Soroco High School in Oak Creek.
But, when asked, he acknowledged he was a bit nervous.
“I don’t know what I’m expecting,” the Hayden boy said Wednesday during Routt County 4-H Exhibit Day. “My dad used to do leatherwork, and my mom used to do woodworking, so they both gave me a little advice.”
It was J.D.’s first Exhibit Day, but the 10-year-old doesn’t expect it to be his last. Both his parents grew up in 4-H programs, and from only a glance at his projects, it’s clear he plans to follow in their footsteps.
For J.D. and the other 4-H members, Wednesday’s event marked the unofficial kick off of fair season. Children from across the county came with their projects, hoping to impress the judges and maybe win a Routt County fair ribbon for their efforts. Many of the winners will also earn a shot at the state fair, coming up later in the summer in Pueblo.
“Exhibit Day is the culmination of a year of working on projects that we consider to be indoor projects,” said Karen Massey, Routt County Extension director. “So, at the (Routt County) Fair, they will be judged on their livestock projects, but in Exhibit Day, here in Oak Creek, they are being judged on their indoor projects.”
Those projects included clothing, construction, artistic clothing, cake decorating, heritage arts, filmmaking, ceramics, computers, entomology, leather craft, photography, veterinary science, woodworking and shooting sports, to name a few.
“Every 4-H member needs to interview with a judge and tell them about their project, and then, on Friday, we will have a fashion review and fashion show, and the awards will be given out,” Massey said.
J.D. was among those members hoping to bring home a ribbon, but to do that, he needed to get past the interview. Things must have gone well, because when he walked out of the classroom following his interview, he was all smiles.
“They told me the most important thing was to get eye contact and pay attention to what the judge was saying to me,” J.D. said. “I know I did a good job, because the judge told me that I did a good job.”
Now, he’ll have to wait until Friday to find out if his projects measured up to ribbon standards, but veteran judge Lorrae Moon said many of the young people she sees at Exhibit Day will walk away with more than a ribbon after Friday’s awards ceremony.
“It helps them speak to someone that they do not know, talk about themselves and answer questions spontaneously, “ Moon said. “In essence, it is prepping them for their adult life of interviews and applications and those kind of things … watching them grow from one year to the next is rewarding for me, and they learn something and are rewarded with ribbons when they do a good job.”
Like many of the people found around annual fair events, Moon grew up with 4-H and believes its programs prepare children for what lies ahead. She said Exhibit Day allows the children to set goals, complete a project and present it in a way that showcases their strengths and skills.
She has been judging at the Routt County Exhibit day for more than seven years and offers her skills at other fairs across the state.
“The pride that comes from these kids and their hard work is pretty amazing,” Moon said. “ It makes you feel like things are going to be OK in our world, because these kids are prepping themselves.
Massey said teaching children the skills they need to navigate the world as adults is a focus of nearly every 4-H program. And she added, it’s not all about raising animals.
“A lot of people think that 4-H is just about the livestock, and this is an example of all the diversity that can be experienced within 4-H. Most of what we do is actually a skill-building program, and so, with the help of mentors in the community, each of these kids has taken on a project and will learn the skills they need to become good at whatever they choose.”
The Routt County 4-H has about 300 members, and more than half take part in programs outside raising livestock.
Massey added these programs are key to keeping young people connected to the communities in which they live.
Every year, about 90 volunteers come out to support 4-H programs in Routt County. Many of those mentors are focused on raising livestock, but others help with skills such as sewing, leather, wood, metal and photography.
Massey said the children in the programs are also asked to do more than merely complete a project and sit for an interview. Each must also volunteer for community service, present a demonstrations to show they can teach what they have learned and submit a completed record book for their project.
“I’ve learned a lot about vet science, in general, that has helped me take care of my animals,” 11-year-old Josie Meyring said. “I think it helps me learn how to interview. I’m not very nervous I’ve done this a lot. I normally tell other people not to get nervous when they go into the interview and to make sure you have eye contact with the judge.”
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