This year promises to be another grand year for the local 4-H groups of Sanders county.
4-H is a youth organization that gets kids and teens looking at their futures and learning valuable skills that will serve them into adulthood. Participants can choose from hundreds of skills including photography, cake decorating, welding and even the traditional agricultural skills like raising animals and vegetables.
The participants keep records of the entire process, experiences and what they learn along the way. Often this creates a situation of emotional and personal growth.
As the Beef Barn Superintendent for the Sanders County Fair, Richard Jackson, explains, “They learn skills for life and kids in 4-H often become great community members and leaders.” Participants can start at the age of 9, and generally can continue until the age of 18. The entire organization is overseen by the extension agency of Montana State University.
This last Saturday was Fair Readiness Day, where the 4-H participants, and their families, came out to help get the Sanders County Fairgrounds ready for a busy week. They came in the morning and worked until around noon to prepare the facilities and to get themselves organized.
The participants, to stay in good standing with the fair and 4-H, are required to help on Saturday, and each must work a shift in the kitchen.
The Home Economics barn buzzed with youth sweeping, cleaning and getting themselves ready to bring their projects in this week and to present the projects they have been working on for, in some cases, the past year.
Meanwhile, down at the Agriculture barn, and the perspective animal barns, the kids were staining the bleachers, cleaning the pens and wash rack along with understanding the whole process as well as adding shavings to their perspective pens.
There is a lot of work done behind the scenes to make each year’s fair go off without a hitch.
Each participant showing in the fair had to enter their projects by August 7th to have them included. This year 15-year-old Jack McCallister and his 12-year-old brother Nick are extremely excited for the fair and have both been raising red angus steers to show.
Jack’s steer is named Jim Bob, the same name he has given to several other steers he has had in the past, and Nick’s is named Ole Red. Nick explained that his steer was getting a “hay belly.” This is where the cow bloats slightly from too much hay.
He explained that this would mean that he would have to take Ole Red slightly off of the hay, while continuing with its other feeds to remedy the issue before the fair. Jack is considering putting in a welding project as well as his beef entry. He figures he will use a MIG machine (a type of wire welding) if he does, though he isn’t sure what the project will be quite yet.
This will also be the first year that FFA (Future Farmers of America) will also be participating in the fair. Every day this week will feature different presentations and will be showing a different focus. On Thursday, for example, the home economics barn will be showing projects outside agriculture, such as sewing, welding and woodwork. Throughout the week the Agriculture and animal participants will be presenting their projects and doing interviews on their process throughout the year. At the end of the week they will then put their animals up for auction and the money they earn from the sale often goes towards future goals like college.
The 4-H kids and their families have worked hard this year to put on a great show and to test their hard work, and this years Fair will be one of the biggest yet.