4-H/FFA youth fair big deal in small county
By MICHELE LINCK
SIBLEY – It was all there at the 2015 Osceola County Fair – new ag equipment, old tractors, young people eager to show their animals, barrel racing and rodeo events.
And, as is traditional, the fair featured hundreds of 4-H projects, commercial exhibitors’ displays and fair food.
The fun included a dunk tank, mini-golf, giant inflatables, fireworks and musical entertainment and a Monster Arm Wrestling tournament.
It’s a big production for a county of 6,500.
One of those residents is Charlie Eggink, 81, the Osceola County Fair’s superintendent of dairy events for about six decades. This year, he said 39 dairy exhibitors had registered – three more than last year.
It’s a good thing Eggink isn’t a judge, though; four of his grandsons were showing cows from their dairy herd.
The four are brothers, sons of Leroy and Kolette Eggink, who own and operate a 48-head specialty dairy farm near Sibley.
Jacob Eggink, 12, who showed cows in six events, said he will take his calf to three more shows this fair season – the Iowa-Minnesota Youth Show, the Clay County Fair and the Aks-Arben Show in Omaha, Nebraska.
4-H means learning
Once judging is finished, the 4-H Exhibition Hall is one of the quietest buildings on the fairgrounds.
But Wade Weber, an Iowa State University Extension program specialist in six counties, had no trouble telling stories about each category, the projects and their purpose and the judging criteria.
Weber heads the 5-year-old 4-H Youth Development Program for his area.
“It’s a year’s worth of learning,” Weber said of the 4-H projects.
He said the judges look just as closely at the 4-H’ers required paperwork, which tracks the steps and their thinking as they plan and execute their project.
The judge spends several minutes questioning the 4-H’er, asking how they broke the project into steps and how they decided on the materials and processes.
The 4-H’ers said it’s a learning experience.
“It teaches you,” Alex McDougal, 14, said of her own 4-H experience. This year she won two champion ribbons, which send her projects to the Iowa State Fair – a queen-sized, chevron-pattern quilt and a large wren house fashioned from a summer squash gourd.
McDougal said the judges wanted to see more detail in her quilt. She made her first quilt, a pink Lincoln Log pattern, as a third-grader, and said she is still open to learning more.
Though many 4-H projects will go on to the state fair, Weber said there judges won’t talk with the youths. Instead, they judge using only the 4-H’ers’ paperwork and the project itself.
Both must meet stringent criteria to get top honors.
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