4H and County Fairs are as much a part of Americana as country songs and denim jeans. 4H youth work on a host of hands-on projects, gardens, community service programs, raising and training animals of all sorts, and a slew of science discovery programs throughout the year. All with the hope of exhibiting their masterpieces and menagerie at the county fair.
Thousands of people usually walk by exhibits in the Youth Building of photography, foods, woodworking, crafts, artwork, and educational exhibits that are usually judged face to face by volunteers with expertise in the subject.
Horses, dairy and beef cattle, goats, sheep, poultry, swine, hedgehogs, rabbits and critters of all sorts are trained, handled, groomed, and wearing their finest show gear in hope that there will be ribbons above doors and on cages. 4H youth can be found with their exhibits answering questions and proudly telling the public about their special projects.
But more important than the ribbons and accolades, the fair is about friendships, face to face conversations with judges, fair foods, wheelbarrow races, kickball games, and lifetime memories made.
2020 brought some challenges to 4H staff and 4H leaders to continue to deliver quality programming, and the hands-on educational opportunities that 4H is famous for offering during this time of social distancing.
Horse Camp, Dairy and Goat Camp, clinics, and many other family centered activities and learning opportunities were cancelled and a collective sigh of disappointment could be heard. 4H quickly moved to offering many virtual activities. Although technology is wonderful, it is just not the same.
When it was announced that Franklin County Fair would not happen, it was decided by 4H staff that a virtual fair would not be enough to fully recognize all the efforts of the 4H youth. 4H members could not bring their projects to the fair so 4H staff came up with the idea to bring fair to them.
Youth registered their projects, chose dates and times that a volunteer judge and a staff person could visit their homes or farms outdoors and with all safety measures in place. This traveling fair would span a period of 14 days. Judges arrived no matter how long a drive, looked at all projects and shared their knowledge and expertise to help “Make the Best Better.”
Yes, there were ribbons. There was even cotton candy and red, white, and blue candy popcorn. Most important, there were smiles behind masks because 4H made the time to recognize their efforts. Sometimes, the mask itself was a 4H’ers sewing project. Youth were visited from Dekalb Junction to Champlain, Chateaugay, Malone, Tupper Lake, Ausable and all points in between. It was a lot of scheduling and driving but all the wonderful judges agreed that being able to do this for the Franklin County 4H youth, no matter where they were, was as much a joy for them as a great experience for the youth. 4H was truly Together Where-Ever.
Over 200 projects and animals were seen and judged and 70+ youth participated. The fantastic 4H alumni judges included Janet Collier, Darlene Nason, Diane Dumont, Diane Tremblay, Melissa Staib, Connie Gerow, Cindy Goodman, Marci Heery, Bob Hest, and Dale Chapin.
Contact Cornell Cooperative Extension 4H Franklin County, 518-483-7403 or visit http://franklin.cce.cornell.edu/ for more information about 4H programs.