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Fair is opportunity for Lawrence youth to shine

Never mind the excessive heat and humidity, 4-H’er Skye Barnett spent Thursday morning working up a sweat. While some young people might have been relaxing beside a swimming pool or in an air-conditioned house, Skye was busy. From 8 o’clock in the morning until 3 in the afternoon, she was in the barn.

“She spent the morning washing lambs and trimming them,” her mom, Beth Barnett said.

But the work just might pay off in the sweetest of dividends this week. Skye will take her lambs, Bo and Luke Duke, to the Lawrence County Junior Fair and in hopes of snatching a trophy.

The annual event begins in earnest Monday at the fairgrounds in Rome Township. But for Skye, the beginning of the fair is actually the grand finale to months of hard work.

The Lawrence County Junior fair began Saturday and continues this week.

Hands on training for the future

The fair is the showcase for Lawrence County’s 4-H program that allows literally hundreds of kids to explore their world by undertaking dozens of hands-on projects, everything from cooking to electricity to livestock care.

These projects may be an indication of the child’s future. Many a farmer learned or honed the basics of his trade in 4-H.

But even if the young person doesn’t find a career popping out of his 4-H project, he or she learns life skills that are of benefit in the future.

“It builds a lot of responsibility,” 4-H mom and fair livestock committee member Beth Barnett said. She herself was in 4-H when she was in school. Daughters Dakota and Skye have continued the tradition. “They learn how to take care of an animal and that they have to stay with it. It may all be fund and cute at first but as the weeks go by its gets to be a chore.

They learn the basics of money management, too.

“They have to keep track of how much they spend, not only for the animal but on feed, equipment and bedding. They have to learn to budget properly,” Barnett said.

Skye Barnett said she has acquired social skills during her years at the fair.

“I used to be shy about public speaking,” Skye recalled. But 4-H students not only must present a project to a judge, they have to explain, sometimes in detail, what they learned from it. Last year Skye won the Fair Princess crown and spent the rest of the fair introducing events and presenting trophies. Shyness often dissolves with practice and practice often begets confidence.

Livestock

By Monday, the pens in the livestock barn will be alive with the sounds of bleating lambs, lowing cattle and grunting hogs.

Holly Brooks, program assistant for the Lawrence County 4-H program, said participation in cattle exhibits is on the rise: 36 4-H’ers are bringing steers to the fair; 41 are bringing feeder cattle and 23 are bringing beef breeding projects.

The rise in cattle projects may balance the slight decrease in other animal projects. Beth Barnett said who brings what varies from year to year.

“One year we’ll have a lot of kids bringing chickens and then they see how hard they are to raise and bring something else the next year,” she said. “It fluctuates from year to year. I don’t know if there is any real reason for it,” she said.

Eighty-eight kids are bringing meat goats and 69 kids are bringing market hogs. Twenty-nine kids are bringing chickens and two are bringing fancy poultry.

Rabbits by far are the largest livestock category: 122 people are bringing rabbits. Six youth are bringing lambs.

Skye Barnett brought market goats in years past. This year she switched to lambs.

“Lambs are so sweet and friendly. I’ve made babies out of mine,” Skye said. Most of the animals will be sold at auction at the end of the fair. Will it be hard watching Bo and Luke go to the highest bidder and then off to be lamb chops?

“It’s going to be sad,” she admitted.

But the 4-H’ers will use the money from this year’s auction to fund next year’s project and sometimes, something else important. Skye’s older sister, Dakota, used her fair earnings to buy her first car.

Explore the world

Kids do not have to bring an animal to the fair to participate; dozens will showcase their knowledge with projects that range from agricultural (for instance, tobacco, beekeeping and gardening) to recreation (fishing and collectibles) to household skills (nutrition).

Students may even choose their own field of interest with a self-determined project.

Brooks said some kids this year choose cash over cattle.

“We have quite a few kids doing projects on budgeting and money,” she said.

Sweet tooth, big heart

Perhaps no activity garners more attention (and elicits more salivation) than the sweet tooth auction at 6 p.m. Monday. Eleven teen leaders have been asked to bring plates of cookies and brownies and pies that will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Bidding is usually lively and the proceeds go for a worthy cause.

“They donate some of the profits to buy Christmas presents for needy kids,” Brooks said.

Entertainment

The entertainment began Saturday with the demolition derby and continues at 8 p.m. this evening with Wolf Creek Motocross.

A tractor pull is slated for 8 p.m. Monday, the Tough Truck competition is 8 p.m. Tuesday. At 7 p.m.

Wednesday is the Battle Of The Bands. At 8:45 p.m. Thursday country performer Jamey Johnson will be in concert and at 8 p.m. Friday the entertainment is Bull Mania. The entertainment closes this Saturday with a 7 p.m. repeat of the Demolition Derby. All of the entertainment is at the grandstand.

There are carnival rides on the midway, along with games and, of course, food.

“I encourage everyone to come to the fair and bring their family,” Beth Barnett said. “There is something for everyone. There are the shows in the grandstand and the rides and everybody loves to walk through the barn and see the animals.”