Meeting and working with all of this royalty (here and here) has me feeling incredibly nostalgic (shocking I know). And while 4-H isn’t the only aspect of Jr. Fair, it’s the one that I’m most familiar with as it’s the one that led me to my crown. Though it might seem incredibly overdone and tad bit cliche, I’ve decided to compile a list of five ways 4-H has shaped me into the human I am today; please feel free to add your own in the comments below.
1 – 4-H is the reason I discovered my passion: photography. A lot of people don’t realize that there is more to 4-H than just showing animals. I joined when I was eight. My very first year I took only one project (this quickly changed and each summer after that I scrambled to finish four or five). It was the level one photography project. I blew through about a dozen rolls of film and didn’t place at the county level, but I was hooked. Each year after that, I took the next level, until there were no more, at which point I turned to the self-determined route (essentially the thesis of 4-H). Every year after that first year, except for one, I won at the county level and went on to the state competition. I won the entire state fair’s photography show when I was twelve with a picture of my equally awkward best friend. That same friend won me an honorable mention and the advanced division five years later as a seventeen-year-old making her final trek to the Columbus Expo Center. My judge that last year was the first person to look me in the eye and say, “You can make this a career; you should make this your career”.
2 – 4-H is the reason I had rabbits. After my first year without any animals, I realized that I was missing out on a huge portion of what fair had to offer and I wanted in. I convinced my parents to let me get one rabbit, which actually ended up being three rabbits, which quickly turned into an entire rabbit breeding operation. At its peak we had upwards of twenty bunnies hopping around. I memorized all of the breeds and their traits, every disease and each cut of meat, which lead to me doing well during skillathon. I also did well at showmanship, winning the senior level my freshman year and oftentimes took Best of Breed and/or Best Opposite. In 2008 I was the Rabbit Queen, a precursor to my 2011 Jr. Fair Queen rein. While the trophies were exciting, the real point to this is, that without 4-H there would have been no rabbits. That existence is incredibly hard for me to wrap my brain around.
3 – 4-H is the reason I love to be interviewed. I have been constantly interviewed since the age of eight. Quickly, I realized that this wasn’t something to be feared but rather something to look forward to – anxious excitement rather than worry. As someone who always put in the time and the effort to be fully knowledgeable about whatever it was I was being interviewed for, they went great. It was an opportunity to talk to a professional, who was equally if not more passionate than me and share ideas. All of those skills have transferred well into my “adult” life.
4 – 4-H is the reason I don’t fear public speaking. Pretty much every point I made in bullet point number three is applicable here. When you are knowledgeable and passionate about a subject it’s fun to share that information with others. I accredit all of the demonstrations and health and safety talks to my lack of public speaking fear, also the time spent in, inevitably, every office and the annual runway show where you had to model that years sewing project.
5 – 4-H is the reason I am not afraid of being a leader. There really was no other option as there were leaders for literally everythingEVERYTHING: president, vice president, secretary, treasure, health and safety, fun day and lest we forget the fair booth. Somehow it always seemed that I was in charge of more than one at once (I know I was in each of those positions at some point). There were committees in committees that were already a part of other committees. Not to mention the fact that you could be a member of Jr. Fair Board, a part of docudrama, a camp counselor at Kelley’s Island or be nominated as royalty.
Here are some personal photographs (not to be confused with my artistic practice) of fair days gone by:
And now, a few images from Wyandot County Fair 2015 I’ve recently unearthed (more of those can be found here):