County fairs: more fried food than one could ever imagine, rides that make you feel sick, concerts, and a sense of small-town America. Those are the things that I think of when county fairs are mentioned. Yesterday I added a new thing that I think of when I hear “county fair.” 4-H.
I had heard of 4-H, but I never really understood what it was. I knew it involved kids showing animals and I knew that 4-H is something that animal activist groups such as PETA hates, but I had never experienced it for myself. The Tulare County Fair is currently happening and some of my “adopted siblings” as I like to call them are showing cows at the fair. To show my support for them, and in an attempt to get an idea of what this 4-H thing is, I decided to go watch them show.
I arrived in the “animal area” as I will call it, for lack of knowledge of what it’s actually called, yesterday with my husband. What a crazy thing for my eyes to see! For those of you involved in sports, I’d compare the scene to something like a sports tournament. Whether you play soccer, volleyball, baseball, whatever, if you’ve been to an all-day tournament you know what I’m talking about. Families everywhere, little kids running around while their siblings prep their animals, E-Z Ups galore, and ice chests and coolers giving hint that these families aren’t here for just an hour. Just like at an athletic tournament!
SIDE NOTE: Sports are all that I’ve really ever known. Not that I’m not the most athletic person in the world, but my 3 brothers played (still play) in baseball tournaments all.the.time. and I played in volleyball tournaments for a long time. So, if you’re a 4-H’er and offended that I’m comparing it to sports, I apologize. But that’s the analogy that my mind made immediately upon seeing the animal area.
Anyway, I went and said “hey” to my “family,” and E (for her privacy, we’ll just call her E) introduced me to her cow, Pixie. Pixie is a rather, large, cow. Especially compared to how small E is when she stands next to Pixie! I couldn’t help but think to myself, E has to WALK with this thing by herself?! Big animal, small girl…it seemed dangerous. But I know that E and her siblings have spent a lot of time around livestock on their family dairy and figured she knew what she was doing!
Hubs & I headed over to the show ring (again, not sure if that’s what it’s actually called) and waited for E’s group to show. I loved watching all of the kids show their heifers and cows! I was amazed at some of the kids and how calm they appeared, and how it almost seemed like they had a connection with their animal. Both animal & child were just…chill, cruising around the arena. Other kids seemed nervous, but then again, their animals usually decided that they’d rather be running all around the arena instead of standing in place where they were supposed to be. So, what choice does a child have when their hundreds-of-pound animal is running through the arena? None really, but to run with their animal and hope that she stops soon! Those situations had me & hubs chuckling pretty hard.
And then it was E’s group’s turn to show. I believe they have 8 kids along with their heifers/cows come into the show ring at once. The “couples” (referring to child and animal) walk around the arena in a circular line (does that make sense?). They walk in a line, around the arena, hence the circular line. Ok, we’re good. And then from there, I got kind of fuzzy. I’m not sure exactly what they were being judged on. I think that part of it is the child himself/herself, how he/she handles the animal, how he/she holds his/herself, etc. I think the other part of it is the animal. The animal, I think, was supposed to have a certain foot forward (I THINK!)…stuff like that. Like I said, I wasn’t really sure what was going on in the arena.
I do, know this though, after watching a 4-H event for a couple of hours at the fair, I decided that I think I want my kids to do 4-H, should they have the opportunity someday. And I’ll tell you why: these kids learn responsibility, and a great deal of it, in 4-H. Nobody told me to say that, nobody told me they learned responsibility, but as I watched all of the kids brush the coats of their animals, feed them, give them water, clean their hooves, take care of them, it gave me a glimpse of what these kids have had to do in months of preparation with their animals. You can’t tell me that you don’t learn responsibility when it is your job to take care of an animal day-in and day-out.
I think that it teaches kids to take ownership over something that they can be proud of. It gives them an end goal to strive for. A prize to have their eyes set on, and in the process it helps them build relationships with fellow 4-H’ers and it keeps kids connected to agriculture and their food. Now, I could be way off. If you participated in 4-H and have different opinions, or you gained something that I didn’t mention, please let me know! I’d love to hear! Also, if you know what is being judged during a 4-H show, I’d love to know that as well! 🙂
I really enjoyed having the opportunity to dip my toes into the world of 4-H yesterday, and I think that it’s a great thing for America’s youth to be involved in! Go 4-H! 😉