4-H makes fairs tick

It’s county fair time in eastern New Mexico and time to take our hats off to the hard-working 4-Her.

When you get right down to it, our county fairs in this part of the country wouldn’t exist as we know them without the 4-H members who spend the better part of a year on projects, most aimed at fair competition. For some projects, especially livestock, it’s playoff time for farm kids.

Like the playoffs, the fair includes a flurry of activity by the kids as well as parents and grandparents. Those steers aren’t going to get under the shower on their own and the lambs don’t run down to the corner barber for a shearing. It takes the young person showing the animal as well as 4-H leaders and sometimes neighbors to get them all to look good for the shows and hopefully sale.

Carnivals, dances and fried food vendors are all nice but the kids and their projects give the county fair some purpose.

I remember pictures of my dad with his ribbon-winning steer at the Roosevelt County Fair from the early 1950s. By the time I got into 4-H nearly two decades later the focus was starting to move from strictly farm kids and animals to a more rounded program. It wasn’t quite fast enough for me though as I lost interest after I moved to town.

A lot has changed in 40 years though.

These days the focus on cattle isn’t as great as it once was — raising up a dairy heifer to show standards is an expensive proposition. The hogs, lambs, chickens and bunnies are more popular than ever though. At the same time so many other projects that wind up at the fair are popular too.

Crafts of every type are popular with city kids and the country bred as well. Take a look at all the fine arts on display and you’ll be impressed how much of it is devoted to 4-H members.

I may not have had my big day at the fair as a youth, but I got a good sense of the work involved. Years later I went on to cover enough county fairs for newspapers to learn that those 4-H projects are what makes the fair tick in Western towns all over the country.

It’s likely this time of year that some youngster is going to spend a sleepless night with butterflies in their stomach over a bunny. Steer’s tails and hogs’ hams will get fussed over until the family is at each other’s throats. Moms will be going crazy rounding up the supplies to put the finishing touches on crafts and home arts projects.

Somehow the chaos always winds up at fair’s end with a stack of ribbons, tired kids, relieved parents and a community proud of its young people.

Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: karlterry@yucca.net

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