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Junior Fair Board makes event go

ROME TOWNSHIP - When Lawrence County fairgoers gorge themselves with nachos and cotton candy and watch pigs running through show arenas, a good portion of these activities are the brainchildren of children.

For the past three years, Lawrence County 4-H has had a junior fair board that is staffed by 13 children age 14 to 18. The board's primary responsibilities are announcing at the competitions, organizing animal shows and decorating booths and arenas with flags, trophies and signs.

"If we want things the way we want it, then we have to speak up," Julie Huddle, a 17-year-old Ironton resident and junior fair board president said.

During the fair, the board members usually work from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Huddle said. They must also show up to the animal shows 45 minutes before they begin.

In the junior fair board's infancy, anyone who wanted to be on it could be on it, Amber Murnahan, the 17-year-old secretary from Dog Fork said. Now, the requirements are much stricter. First, a board member must actually show up for activities when he/she signs up. The board members must also be at least 14 years old and considered positive role models for other children.

"While we're aging out, the younger members are the ones who fill our spots," Huddle said. "We don't want anyone who goes out and steals cars or goes around tipping Scottys Pottys."

The members also attend meetings of the senior fair board and serve on the livestock committee. They work 11 months out of the year, taking one month off after the fair. Their terms are also staggered. While a new member who is 14 may be selected for a two-year term, an older member may only serve a one-year term. Huddle said in the future, the terms may also be made to overlap to keep members with more experience on the board.

Also, the board members get along very well, according to some of its members.

"You gotta get along," Amy Murnahan, Amber's 18-year-old sister said. "We all know when we're getting grouchy. We'll be friends for lives. When our kids are here, we can look at each other and say, 'Hey! I was on the junior fair board with you."

"We're all friends, and we're here to have fun," Huddle said.

"It's an experience we can all build on. We can come out more of a complete person from this."

Laura Jane Murphy, Lawrence County's 4-H Ohio State University extension agent, said the fair would not be the same without the young people who are planning it.

"I think the fair would definitely lose some of its flavor without the children involved," she said. "It gives them ownership. It's not just adults telling them what to do."