What a New Indiana 4-H Mom Learned at Our First County Fair
Since basically birth, my daughter has been involved in something. We've done dance, choir, theater, soccer, basketball, gymnastics, and even dabbled in volleyball. Our standing rule is that she is only allowed to be in two activities at a time while she's in elementary school.
A few years ago, she wanted to try out horseback riding. I had horses as a kid and loved it so I was 100% in. After taking lessons for a couple of years, we had the opportunity to lease her favorite horse so that she could ride whenever she wanted. So, imagine her delight when her class field trip this past year was to the Warrick 4-H Fairgrounds where the kids were introduced to various agricultural topics including livestock and equine.
She came home so excited about this thing called 4-H. You can learn about horses and even TAKE your horse to the fair! If 4-H was a thing where I am from, I don't remember it and none of my friends were involved but there are lots of kids around our neighborhood that are 4-Hers. So, I told her we'd look into it.
I got all the information and we went to some meetings with various clubs. She chose the Wagner Club. One of her BFFs was in the group and the group leader was a gentleman named Jimmie (who -small world - we later found out was my husband's pee-wee football coach when he was little).
At first, she was terribly shy. One of the older members - a young man who is a Castle senior this year - introduced himself at the first meeting. I thought she was going to dig a hole into my back to get away from him. But it only took her a couple of meetings to get out of her shell and inform me that I didn't need to stay with her at every single 4-H event like it was dance class or something.
When summer rolled around, I wasn't sure what to expect from the fair. I'd been to fairs but this was a whole new ballgame. I decided that I'd do the best I could and if I missed anything, I'd blame it on being a newbie.
Now, in an effort to remind myself of everything I learned in 2022 for future fairs, I decided to put together this list.
1. It's HOT
Oh my gosh. The temps ranged from 85-97 degrees last week with gobs of humidity. Most of the more seasoned parents didn't seem bothered by the heat. One even said, "Eh, it's fair week. It's supposed to be hot." Well, now I know.
2. Bring Frozen Gatorades
Since it was so hot, I thought water was the answer. NOPE. I went down like a Zeppelin when I got home. Electrolytes. COLD Electrolytes!
3. Phones are for Taking Pictures
There's so much going on at the fair - leave your mindless scrolling for some other time.
4. Try Everything You Want to Try - Even If You Don't Think You'll Win
My daughter was so scared to be in the fashion show. She had to model the shorts that she sewed. The time came and she was really nervous but she walked the catwalk and guess what - she won! Now, she's hooked and can't wait to plan her outfit for next year.
5. Ribbons are Fun but Fair is About the Experience
Do your best on your projects but so much of the judging process is based on opinion. My daughter didn't place first in all of her horse shows but she was having fun and growing her bond with her horse. To me, that's the most important thing.
6. Make New Friends
During the 4H Fun Night, her BFF didn't feel much like participating in some of the events. So, she had to step outside of her comfort zone and ask another girl to hang with her. She said, that girl is SO nice and she has a horse! Even parents get in on the action. I got to know one of the barn parents and look forward to seeing them again next year.
7. Take Some Time to Really Look at the Projects
One of the things my daughter is way better at than me is taking time to really look at and appreciate things. We did a sweep of the exhibit hall but then went back and really looked at the projects and even did some game planning of what she wants to try next year! The detail and information these projects display is really quite amazing - and you can learn some pretty cool stuff! See our gallery of some of our favorite projects and animals below.
8. Parents - Let Your Kids Go Have Fun
I'm nervous about letting the kids go off on their own but there are about a zillion parents there that know your kid. Make sure they go with a group or at least another friend, drill them on the safety procedures, and have a centrally-located spot for them to check in, and let them go get a taste of freedom.
9. Bring LOADS of Cash
That's it. You'll need it.
10. Take a Step Back and Relax
The first day of horse showing was nerve-wracking. I had to have all my daughter's gear and all her horse's gear on and ready to roll. She'd never competed before, let alone at the fair. On the second day, I had a better handle on what we needed to do, where we needed to be, and how to do it all. Most projects don't require this level of planning and prep work but it was worth it. She had a great time, made some lifelong memories, and even scored some hardware.
11. Ask the Questions
I had about a million different questions for a million different people. Everyone was super nice and helped me out when I needed it. Don't be afraid to ask.
12. New Parents - Pace Yourself
I had big dreams of doing all the things - all the volunteer work - all the barn work - seeing all the shows - participating in all the activities. Spoiler Alert: lots of those dreams did not happen. I was EXHAUSTED from taking care of a horse 3x a day. I was EXHAUSTED from the heat. I was EXHAUSTED from two days of horse shows. Do what you can. Don't kill yourself in the process.
13. The Projects are a Family Affair
If you think 4-H is just for kids, you're so so sooo wrong. The whole point is for kids to learn about their topics of interest. And, it was my job to help her. One of the things she wanted to do was sewing so I enlisted the help of her Grammie Elaine who walked her through how to sew a pair of shorts. 4-H also provides some awesome workbooks to go through to help them learn about their topic.
BONUS: I Can't Wait Until She Makes it to State Fair
We'll definitely go up and cheer her on! And possibly sample some food and beverages while we are there...
I'm sure as the week goes on, I'll add to this list. It was a ton of fun but thankfully I have 51 weeks to recover! If you missed the Warrick Co. Fair, you can still visit Vanderburgh Co. Fair or the Indiana State Fair.
What Will You Find at the 2022 Warrick Co. 4-H Fair?