Pine Bluffs Post - Serving all of Eastern Laramie County since 1908

It's Show Time - 4H Projects Shine at the Fair


August 6, 2020

Courtesy of Mike Heath

Clockwise starting at upper left is: Abigail Masters and Judge Mary Kay Bohnerblust, , Therese Bodgerding, lower right is Haylee Buckner, lower left are Stephen and Justin Giesler.

A couple of months ago I wrote about 4H and it's importance to youth. It's one of the few youth programs that teaches multiple disciplines to give youth the opportunity to learn about areas that interest them. No other program that I've heard of provides a better method for youth to develop an interest in such a wide range of experiences. Sometimes these experiences develop into a chosen career or a lifelong hobby. They can choose from the standard set of projects or do something totally different that's not in the book. The choice is theirs. In many cases, they will work on multiple projects each year. Sometimes they'll be in the same general subject area and sometimes there will be no relationship between the projects. The point is – they're trying out new experiences without having to commit to any one subject.

This past Saturday these projects were on display at the Archer Event Center as the youth presented their projects to judges who are all experts in their given areas. Most, but not all, of the judges are older with many years of experience. Others, like Christine Kronz from Kronz Photography, are professionals and some are even relatively young. The common threads are that they're all knowledgeable and love to work with youth. 4H is different than most youth programs because the participants want to be there and they all work on a project of their choosing. Not only do the projects provide experience, but they teach perseverance, self-sufficiency, and attention to detail. Although adults guide and coach the youth with their projects, the work is their own. 4H projects provide a singular skill that most other programs don't, the ability to speak and describe their project in detail. Every exhibitor is interviewed and questioned about their project. I was absolutely amazed at the knowledge shown by each of the kids I interviewed. For me, it was also a teaching moment as I took the time to explore with each exhibitor other methods they could use and to answer questions even outside the scope of their project. In some cases even the parents got involved in the learning moment. Work on the next year's projects starts as soon as fair is over.

Last Saturday was show time for the past year of work and learning. I was fortunate to judge the entomology, gardening, horticulture, and produce classes this year. This was my first year judging 4H. Although my older son was in 4H more than 30 years ago, the exhibitors Saturday really opened my eyes to the quality of the youth involved in Laramie County 4H. It also surprised me to see so many siblings participating in similar projects. On case in particular, the Gieser family from Cheyenne, there were eight siblings that exhibited flower arrangements and cut flowers. I can only imagine what the flower bed looked like after all eight had gone through that morning and cut flowers for their projects. All of the family had flower arrangements. I have to admit my surprise when I saw so many boys in this category. Stephen, Justin and James Gieser took either Grand Champion or Reserve Grand Champion for their class. Stephen and Justin were in the same class and I have to admit that I looked at their exhibits for at least four hours before I could decide who would take Grand Champion in the Senior class. Even then it was nearly a coin toss. Their sister, Christine, was right in there with them. I can't even begin to explain how hard it is to judge entries who all had the same instructors and with so much talent. They weren't the only ones with talent in flower arranging, though. There wasn't one entry that didn't show a high degree of skill, even in the junior class where the exhibitors were all pre-teens.

Flower arranging wasn't all that was being displayed. In my free time I visited some of the other judges and looked at the projects they were judging. Christine Kronz told me after the judging ended that she'd had one exhibitor, a junior, who's work was so good that she could easily become a professional photographer at an early age if she keeps up this quality of photography. I watched Abigail Masters while her clothing construction projects were being judged. I am no expert on clothing, but it was easy to see that she had selected a very challenging project with some intricate details that someone her age wouldn't be expected to have mastered. That I was amazed really doesn't say much, but her judge was also amazed at the skill she displayed.

Shortly after I arrived at my table, the cake decorating exhibits started coming in. Those that I saw were all from the younger exhibitors and I thought that they could all be selected for the TV show Cake Wars. They were just terrific. One particular exhibit took me back to my youth, a five foot tall model of a Saturn V rocket. And I don't mean a kit either. This was a made-from-scratch model. When I was a Senior in high school I watched a Saturn V being rolled out to the launch pad at Cape Kennedy and then we watched as it took off for the moon late that night. It was exhilarating and seeing the model brought all those memories flooding back. Another very interesting exhibit, at least to me, was a working bow that had been hand carved. The photos with the exhibit showed each step of the process as it progressed. Their were other projects such as woodworking, arts and crafts, meat processing, meat judging, computers, civil engagement, food and nutrition, aerospace, geology, health, interior design, nature and ecology, range management and veterinary just to name a few. As you can see, there is something for everyone.

4H has another unique quality that I really like. There is no competition between the exhibitors. Each project stands alone and is ranked based on the quality of the work and the interview. In other words, everyone could potentially get a purple ribbon or nobody could get one. Every participant is expected to stand on their own two feet and be judged on the work they did. That is a remarkable quality in adults, let alone kids. I expect that each of these kids that participate in 4H have the potential for a very bright future if they apply what they learn in their time in 4H. I know my son went on after 4H to have a very fulfilling career in Biomedical Equipment Repair. He's been at that job for 26 years now and it all started with a 4H project.

To all the exhibitors, I give you a bow, a salute, and a grand congratulations for a job well done. You all did terrific work and you persevered through the task. My hat is off to you. I hope to see you back next year.


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