County fairs are the most recognizable element of the local 4-H program. The fair is a culmination of many weeks, months, or even a year’s worth of learning, creating and discovering through 4-H experiences.
It may not be the fair itself that is so important to the 4-H program but the entire package. When a youth raises an animal, for example, whether it is for market or for show, they have to care for, work with, and learn about that animal. The opportunity to show it at the fair is the driving force that motivates them to get up early, go out and work with their animal, watch videos on how to show the animal, go to club meetings, and so forth. When a youth is raising an animal, that youth will put in that extra effort knowing they are going to show it at the fair.
This can also be true for non-animal projects. Youth may love art, but the idea of bringing an art project to the fair to be judged may encourage them to learn more. They might learn about using different mediums, using the correct materials, finding the focal point, and much more. Same idea with photography or sculptures and even the table setting contest.
Are these things important to youth development? Is it important we teach youth how to raise an animal and show it? Is it important to teach them how to use the correct medium in an art project or how to set a table even if that is not going to be their career?
While these are nice bonuses to our program, they are not the goal of the 4-H program. It is, however, a way to get to the real purpose of teaching life skills. Through 4-H projects, youth may learn leadership as they take on roles within their club such as being a club officer. They may learn empathy or understanding as they learn about others’ challenges or about youth from another part of the community. Youth learn teamwork and character building as they work together with their club toward common goals.
Youth who raise animals may learn self-discipline and responsibility as they take care of a living thing that depends on them every day for their welfare. During the judging process, a youth may have to explain their project to a judge, which helps to develop their social and interview skills. During times of disappointment or excitement, they will learn things such as good sportsmanship, managing their feelings, or being concerned for others.
Many times the youth do not even realize all the great things they have learned until they reflect back on their experience in 4-H when they are older. Many will admit that their 4-H experiences helped them to develop their leadership skills and become more well-rounded citizens.
Everything one does in life teaches life skills, which in turn help people to develop and mature as citizens within a community. Through 4-H, volunteers and staff can help youth to develop more of these skills earlier in life, assist them to be successful, to be able to face challenges head-on, and to persevere.
Our fair this year is called Tooele County Summer Nights. I hope you take the opportunity to visit the 4-H showcase and the livestock show. When you see all the different creative projects, from sewing, original poems, photography, Lego creations to the livestock animals that were created or raised during 2020-2021 year with their pretty ribbons and premium money awarded, think of how much more they actually mean and all the work it took for the youth to get their project finished. There is so much more that our 4-Hers are learning and we would love to see them receive guidance and get recognized. Fairs not only make good memories but they also help 4-H youth grow into successful adults.
Tooele County Summer Nights is Aug. 4 – 7, 2021, at the Deseret Peak Complex and is free to the public. Families can enjoy great food, interact with animals, and enjoy hands-on activities throughout the event. Come join the fun!
For more information about Tooele County’s 4-H program, visit extension.usu.edu/tooele/ or contact the USU Extension office at 435-227-2405.
Robyn Handley is a 4-H Volunteer/Teen Council Advisor at the USU Extension – Tooele County office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele. For more information about the Tooele County 4-H Program, contact Handley at 435-277-2402 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.