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One Guy's Opinion - 4-H

I’ve made no secret of the fact that my busiest and most tiring week of work is the annual LaGrange County 4-H Fair.

It’s hot. Dusty. Rainy. Long days. A little smelly at times. Fattening (fair food!)

And I love it.

I have a blast each year when it’s fair week. From a work point of view, I like it so much because I get the chance to shoot photos that I normally don’t – rodeo, tractor pull, car racing, etc.

There are the long stretches of time as a livestock judge takes his or her time in choosing the winner. Then we have to round up the exhibitor and the animal for a photo. For some reason, swine just don’t want to pose for a photo.

But really, I enjoy the fair so much because it’s a reminder of what I did when I was young (not going to say how many years ago. But a few.)

I spent 10 years as a 4-H member. And, please note, never once took an animal project. See? You don’t have to live and work on a farm to reap the benefits of 4-H.

4-H’s motto has been “Learn by doing.” So, what do you learn by doing?

For starters, the projects had to be done on time, which in itself is quite a lesson. There was the judging during the fair, which for an elementary student can be a bit nerve wracking but incredibly useful. You get better each time. Your answers are smoother. You learn to express yourself and what you know.

There was the knowledge in the project itself. I’ve told a lot of folks that during my last four years as a 4-H’er I took creative writing and photography, two skills which have brought me to where I am now.

Not every project I took led me down a career path. The model rocket phase didn’t last long. Nor did the electricity projects. And I never tried my hand at any cooking projects.

There is also responsibility in being a 4-H’er. One can serve as a club officer. Join the Junior Leaders. Work at the fair.

In fact, working at the fair is one of the things I have the fondest memories of from my days in 4-H. In my home county, we had a Junior Fair Board that handled the majority of the responsibility for the 4-H building and livestock shows. Many of us were at the fairgrounds from breakfast until well into the night.

Looking back, I think the thing that working so hard at the fair gave us the most was ownership in the fair itself. We helped to make it work and to be as good as possible. 

And the icing on the proverbial cake? Friends. My best friends from where I grew up, many of whom I’m still in contact with, were in 4-H. A couple were in my own school, but all of us came from the various high schools in the county – four in total. It’s a great opportunity to meet people from other schools.


Why am I going on about this when the county fair is months away? Well, first off, it’s nice to think of a warmer season right now. The heat and dust of the fair would be quite welcomed by most, I think.

But more importantly, right now is the time to enroll in 4-H. There are great projects for nearly every interest. Your son and daughter can try their hand at photography. Writing. (Yeah, I’m biased with those two.) Woodworking is a great project, and I’ve seen some amazing projects done over the years. Sewing is another good one. Have an artistic side? Go for it!

Some projects are more labor intensive than others – one reason I never did livestock, I guess. Some can be done in an evening or two. Some can be far more involved. It’s up to you.

So here it is – the pitch. Call the LaGrange County Purdue Extension Service office at 499-6334. Get some information on 4-H. Get your children involved in an organization that can expand their world and teach them something new or they can excel in something they already do. It’s worth it.

Trust me.