The Benton County Fair happened last month and Official Kids Mag caught up with kids having fun there, including 4-H kids proudly showing off their heifers and pigs, fashion creations, photographs, arts and crafts, and the many other amazing projects they’ve brought to life.
“Our program is based a lot on personality development and those important character traits of work ethic, honesty, integrity,” explained Johnny Gunsaulis, the extension agent for Benton County that runs the 4-H there. He says 4-Hers have long been involved in the Benton Fair—including his own son and daughter—and that “it’s a good time for the community to be exposed to agriculture and other huge programs of 4-H.”
4-H is over 100 years old and is the largest youth-serving organization in the nation. The four Hs you see on the group’s clover emblem are Head (“Head to Clearer Thinking”), Heart (“Heart to Greater Loyalty”), Hands (“Hands for Larger Service”) and Health (“Health to Better Living”). Young people ages 5 to 19 can join for free and participate in community and specialty clubs. The sky’s the limit when it comes to 4-H programs — everything from aerospace to dance contests and civic engagement, to building submersibles, learning photography, and raising and showing livestock.
“Animal projects have historically been popular at 4-H and still are,” Gunsaulis said. Both beef and dairy cattle are mainstay attractions, but so are smaller animals like sheep, goats, pigs and rabbits. “They’re fun, kids like them, and it doesn’t take a big operation or tremendous amount of money to get involved in the smaller animal projects.”
How do 4-Hers benefit from working with animals? It starts with “the work ethic, that responsibility of learning to care for something on a daily basis—even when it’s not fair and you’re not gonna get a blue ribbon. It’s just part of that everyday work thing that this is what it takes, and the amount of effort it takes to be successful in life.”
Other rewards are social interaction, where kids get to interact with each other and their families, and showmanship, where they learn the attributes and desired characteristics of their animal. “They then work on their show abilities to present that animal in the best way it can be.” Yet another advantage is found at the fair’s premium auction. “There you get the interaction between the kid and the corporate people—leaders in society—that have come out to support the fair.”
Technology is a fast-growing field for 4-Hers that’s increasing in popularity. “There are some robotics competitions many kids are real interested in. Even in the animal world, there are so many exciting technologies coming along now.” Gunsaulis mentioned DNA testing, which is submitted with the entry application, and after the show, verifies the participant’s animal is the one entered in the competition. “But now there’s DNA testing to predict animal performance and traits, like docility. It’s pretty cool.”
By Suzanne Rhodes