GALLIPOLIS — The 4-H organization is one of the most commonly seen entities when it comes to the Gallia County Junior Fair.
But how does it operate and what does it take to mentor children in their exhibits?
“4-H is a group that allows children who may not be the best test-takers or athletes to still have hands-on learning experiences to display their strengths,” said Tracy Winters, Gallia County 4-H youth development educator and county director. “It gives kids a lot of soft skills. Kids that come out of 4-H are great public speakers, great interviewers, they’re very used to being in front of groups. We get kids that become team leaders that have gone on to teach. They build organizational skills while leading club meetings.”
4-H partners with nearly 110 universities, nationwide, according to 4-H.org. The group’s programs “are research-backed and available through 4.H clubs, camps, after-school and school enrichment programs in every county and parish in the U.S.” A large portion of the group’s projects are agriculturally centered. 4-H exists in more than 50 countries and has more than 6.5 million members in the U.S. alone. One of the first 4-H programs started in 1902 in Clark County, Ohio, by Albert B. Graham.
Winters said children’s enrollment forms to join 4-H are typically due April 1. Usually in January and February, advisors are starting to be trained and children start getting paperwork in March turned back in the following month. In April, children need to begin deciding on projects they would like to exhibit at the coming fair. July 5 marks the date individuals need to register for the fair. By this date, children need to have been working on their project actively and decide on what they wish to exhibit for judging.
According to Winters, children have the option of choosing from more than 200 projects to exhibit. This includes animal and non-animal projects. Animals to be used in projects must be in a child’s possession by May 15. Steer projects can take up to two years as they are a slower-growing animal. Horses are typically used from year to year.
Many of the projects involve breeding animals and meat animals. Some children are judged on how they can show an animal in a public forum. A few of the less well-known fair projects can involve a beekeeping exhibition, as well as dog obedience. Some children have chosen to raise pack goats to be guided through obstacle courses, while other children work with “pocket pets,” creatures such as hamsters and rats.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext 2103.