When you are done reading this and believe it sounds familiar, that is because I said this a year ago and also two years ago. I will say it for the third year because it is that important.
It is fair time again and while you are at the fair walking through the exhibits, looking for good things to eat, seeing friends, and admiring the shiny new machinery, do not miss out on the best part of the fair.
Take time to walk through the livestock barns because that is where the best part of the fair is located.
Stop to observe animals being washed and groomed for their judging event. Pause to watch a young boy or girl dressed in some everyday clothes with a hose in one hand and a brush in the other washing this project they have already spent much time on before the fair caring and feeding for it as it grows.
Usually there is a parent or leader not too far away assisting the 4-H or FFA member making sure everything goes safely and done to the best.
All this goes on amid the hubbub of bawling sheep, mooing cattle, grunting pigs, and whinnying horses. There should be some chickens and rabbits not too far away, as well.
There in the livestock barns along with the sawdust and smell of manure is the treasure of our country – those wonderful kids who care for and compete every year hoping to take home a colored ribbon acknowledging what they have accomplished.
A casual stroll does not do them justice. Stop long enough to see exactly what they are doing. There is a certain amount of fun in what they are doing, but it is also serious business.
The judging event is approaching when all the months of preparation will peak.
The judging event itself is worth watching. Once the animal is groomed, it is time for the owner to be groomed too. No more sloppy dirty shirts. In the show ring the animal and the exhibitor both have to be at their best in appearance and behavior.
Watching a 100-pound boy or girl lead a 1,300-pound cow with just a halter, control market weight hogs, or calm a nervous sheep is a sight to behold.
Look at the rest of the 4-H and FFA displays, too. There are food exhibits, photos on display, machinery that has been resurrected, all showing months of preparation so that they can be entered into competition at the fair.
I could never be a judge because as far as I am concerned, they all get blue ribbons. I stand in awe of these wonderful glorious young people.
We like to measure things by the return on investment. For a dollar spent how much will we get back in the end?
I believe some of the greatest rewards are found in the livestock barns and exhibit buildings where our young people have put their efforts on display.
How do you measure learning to work towards a goal and then listen to its evaluation as it is compared to others that have done the same thing?
Our 4-H and FFA members are developing those skills in life that determine excellence.
In order to succeed, there are times you will be dirty and there are times you will wonder if it is worth it.
When it is over, you will look back and see where improvements can be made and do it again next year, a little older and a little wiser.
The best part of our country is in the livestock barns and exhibit buildings during the fair wearing a dirty T-shirt one minute and looking neat and clean for judging the next.
It is our job to cheer them on.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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