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

The Fair, 4H, FFA and You


August 19, 2021

Courtesy of Mike Heath.

Above left: Hayden Winslow, Hillsdale Toppers 4H Club; Above center: Shelby Clark, Kountry Kids 4H Club, Burns with Judge Tanya Miller.

Chalk up another year for the Laramie County Fair. Once again the fair was a week of controlled chaos as exhibitors rushed to get in their entries, set up for the competitions, then held their breath as the judges made their decisions. The livestock competitions were a flurry of activity from the time the doors opened for the entries to the time animals were loaded for the trip home. The chaos slowed down for the static exhibits once the judging was over on Friday. Yet there was always something to be done.

As it does every year, this year's Laramie County Fair had something for everyone. Horse shows, motocross, demolition derby, pig wrestling (always a blast), mutton busting for the little kids, tractor pulls, livestock competitions, Farmer's Market, and a showcase of the skills and talents of our Laramie County residents. For those of you who don't know, the Fair is a terrific place to show off your hobbies and interests and compare them to others from around the county. I know I'm biased but I especially like the floriculture displays. Floriculture encompasses everything flowers, from cut flowers, to flower arrangements to hanging baskets and fairy gardens. I had several that I really like but the display that impressed me the most was an orchid that had been blooming constantly for the last 13 years. That plant was awarded the "Best of Show" award by Chris Hilgert, University of Wyoming Extension Office. There is a category for virtually every flower species that will grow here in Wyoming plus a few that don't but have become house plants. There were more than 500 entries in the floriculture divisions. Exhibits are judged on appearance, quality of the entry, and on presentation. Due to COVID the fair was unable to obtain ribbons so the judges resorted to colored labels. But it actually worked out better. Without the ribbons cluttering up the displays visitors could see the plants better to appreciate what their friends and neighbors have been doing for the past year.

4H has become an organization dear to my heart. Our older son was in 4H in Washington and it led to his lifelong career in Biomedical Equipment Repair. 4H is much more than agriculture. It permits youth to explore any area that interests them, from robotics to gardening. Last year was my first year as a 4H judge and I was impressed by the quality of the entries. This year they were even better. One family in particular, the Giesers from the Prairie Dusters 4H Club, brings in 10 flower arrangements, one for each child old enough to show in 4H. The oldest girl, Christina, could easily be a professional floral designer and did extremely well at the state fair last year. I wish her the same this year because she's going again. Even the youngest is showing promise in the same field. The entire family has a special talent and passion for flowers and flower arranging. Another extremely impressive exhibit was a bench designed and built by Hayden Winslow of the Hillsdale Toppers 4H Club. His welding on the 55 gallon drum he converted to a bench was better than most professional welders I've worked with. I can't end my praise of the 4H exhibits without talking about Shelby Clark of the Kountry Kids 4H Club in Burns. Shelby brought in a huge fairy garden, it took two people to move it, and also had multiple entries in photography. Obviously a young lady of many talents. Another interesting area for me is the cake decorating. To see what some of these kids can do is absolutely amazing. I want to dive in and start eating cake! You can imagine my disappointment when I learned that they were decorating Styrofoam forms, not actual cakes. I should have known better. After all, it is cake decorating, not cake baking. There were so many more static exhibits that I would never be able to mention them all. But that isn't all. 4H also has categories in livestock and agriculture to teach the kids what it takes to care for livestock and how to grow food crops. In every case, the kids are learning. They don't have to stay with the same project every year, either. They can have multiple projects and they can change every year to do whatever suits their fancy. A true learning experience. 4H gives our youth the ability to explore multiple areas of interest to find what they really love.

FFA is all agriculture and is designed to start youth on the path to a career in agriculture or an animal-related career path. Not all become farmers or ranchers. Listening to their career goals I have heard agricultural economics, business, agriculture research, biology, veterinary medicine, game management, and many others that I've forgotten. Much more than 4H, FFA is focused education with instructors/advisors in the public school system where it's a class for the FFA students.

After the fair, 4H and FFA hold a livestock sale where exhibitors sell their animals to help pay for their next year's project. I've been to many livestock sales but these are some of the most exciting I've ever seen. Not every animal is sold through the sale, only those that placed well in each category. But...that's a benefit for the rest of us. Last year we purchased a 4H steer that didn't make the minimum weight so couldn't go through the sale. That was the absolutely best beef I've every had. I hope we can find another. This year 27 of the 31 winning entries in the FFA sale were from either Burns or Pine Bluffs. But there's more to 4H and FFA than the fair. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the spin off education those kids get in public speaking and being able to explain their projects to a judge. That can be a terrifying experience for adults, let alone kids. Those who choose can even compete in public speaking. This training and experience is invaluable later in life. Since FFA is a national organization the youth can hold higher level offices such as Chair, Secretary, etc. to gain valuable management and administrative skills without being limited to only local positions.

The open class exhibits are for the rest of us. I've already talked about floriculture, but that's only the beginning. There is a category for almost anything you can imagine. Photography, canning, baking, quilting, crafts of all sorts, is amazing. I'm always astounded at the skills and talents that come to the fair. Many of these people could easily be professionals and make a living at their passion. One interesting set of exhibits was the art from all of the elementary schools in Cheyenne. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed to see that there were no displays from District 2 because I know we have great art teachers. There were a few drawings in the art exhibit that could hold their own in an art show.

Wow! As I finish this article I'm beat. The adrenaline is dissipating and it's almost hard to believe it's over. I hope I can encourage more of you to enter in the fair next year. I know some of my readers personally and I am fully aware of your talents. I know of some outstanding bakers, you know who you are, that could do well in the pie baking contest. More entries just make the fair better. And who knows? You may even make some money back if you win. So plan next year to come out and enjoy the fair. There's something different every night for the family. And bring your exhibits. See how you measure up against everyone else. If you have any questions, ask a Master Gardener. It's what we do.


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