Believe it or not, the winter that would never end and the spring that many wish they could forget about are basically over, with spring officially turning to summer this week. Some counties didn't wait for official summer to kick off their annual runs, bringing roasted corn, giant tenderloins, Ferris wheels, and cracker jack back to life.
I got my first taste of the county fair season this past Thursday, when I judged a variety of 4-H projects at the Rush County pre-fair judging in Rushville. The fair is underway this week, and organizers are hoping for anything but the downpours and drenching of a year ago. Sources say they pumped 70,000 gallons of water just to try to keep the fair going a year ago.
I work in a few judging gigs during the summer, from geology projects to judging tobacco, believe it or not, just to stay close to young people and agriculture. It's a rare day if I don't bring home a story or at least a story idea for you guys to read about. I have two in the bag from my Rush County visit already.
It was open judging, and I got to visit with the 4-H'ers. If anybody tries to tell you this next generation, especially those 15 and below, aren't serious and don't work anymore, tell them different. I found several that could talk me under the table on several subjects, and many of them put it all together in beautiful, instructive displays.
Each one of the 50 4-H kids I talked to last week got the same question; how much of this project did you do yourself? Most did the majority of it, especially the researching part. One little girl was honest- none! You won't see her exhibit in the champion's circle.
For the most part, 4-H in Indiana is still kids doing and learning. I also asked almost everyone what they had learned, and everyone could answer the questions, telling me something they learned they didn't know before, even if it was an area they were familiar with.
Kids, and parents sometimes, want to win just as bad in the poster and craft-type projects as kids with livestock- they just don't spend as much to do it. That said, some exhibits you see feature dollars worth of photography and decorative material. As long as it's obvious the kid learned something, I don't mind.
I really thought I was on to something when one of the last members bringing up projects laid a cool exhibit about how diamonds are formed in front of me. There under plastic wrap was this huge diamond. Huh?
"Don't worry, it's not real," the young lady bringing the poster giggled. "We just cut it to look real."
"Well, if it was real, maybe we would have to talk a deal," I joked.
What is real are the kids who bring in the projects, many young and still shy. They are diamonds in the rough, and what 4-H is all about. Good luck watching as your child finishes his or her project, and to everyone, be sure to walk through these exhibits at your county fair and see just what kids can do. Grown-ups may have this country screwed up, but the next generation if far from being ready to throw in the towel.