Fair Season From a 4-H Perspective

Stories from the 2017 Stratham Fair

Fair season kicks off on July 19th with the Stratham Fair. Last year, we caught up with some 4-Hers and asked them questions about what the fair experience is like for them.

Alex – Yankee Teamsters 4-H Club, Rockingham County

“Washing, cleaning, making sure the animals have everything,” Alex says describing the work involved to show his two working steers, Teddy and Bear, at a fair. At his eighth Stratham Fair, Alex watches over the two steers as people pass by on their way to animal barns, rides and food. The massive animals slowly lower their heads in unison to chew on some grass. Alex’s focus at the fair is not just to show animals, he uses his time to “inform the public about [livestock] species and about what we do at the fair.” As the midday sun beats overhead, Alex moves his steers a few steps closer to the show ring where they will maneuver through an obstacle course pulling a cart. The time Alex spent with these two steers over the past year, making sure they work together and follow commands, will show in this test in front of judges and peers.

Faith – Woolmark Shepherds 4-H Club, Strafford County

“Preparing for the fair requires hours and hours and hours and days,” says Faith, after she places her show sheep in a pen at the Stratham Fair. “You’re never done.” Her commitment to showing is an example of how serious 4-Hers approach the fair. They arrive, sometimes with a few different animals, to display the work and care they’ve accomplished over the year. The fairs connect them with other people from other clubs, but socializing is done with brushes or hoses in hands. “You’re constantly carting and trimming,” Faith says in a brief moment not focused on her sheep.

Joe – Woolmark Shepherds 4-H Club, Strafford County

“I was born into it,” Joe says of why he joined 4-H. “All of my siblings were in a town club.” He sits between barns at the Stratham Fair with other 4-Hers as they wash and trim their animals. For these youth, a trip to the fair is about work and leadership. Fried dough is involved, too, but the hope is to walk away with a ribbon or more. This year at Stratham Fair, Joe shows two dairy cows and five sheep. Each animal requires time and attention before entering a show ring. Joe estimates that he spends 35 hours preparing the cows for the fair, and 15 hours per sheep. “You can spend 4 to 5 hours just trimming and washing a sheep,” Joe says.

Sarah – Granite State Youth Breeders 4-H Club

“I spend so much time with my rabbits,” says Sarah as she holds one of her prize-winning animals. “I go all across the country.” Sarah brings 16 different breeds of rabbits to the Stratham Fair, but these are not the only animals she cares for. “I spend most of my time in my barn with my animals – horses, ducks and chickens.” This is Sarah’s third year showing at the Stratham Fair, and this year she walks away with a best in show ribbon for her rabbit Vinny, a Dutch Grey.

Katelyn – Woolmark Shepherds, Strafford County

“I didn’t join until I was a little bit older,” Katelyn says of her 4-H story. “Through 4-H I’ve found leadership skills. I’ve really enjoyed teaching what I love to younger generations.” After a year of practice, Katelyn shows dairy cattle at the Stratham Fair. Preparation involves spending time with her animals, setting up a mock show ring, and walking through a routine. The practice lets the animals know what to expect, but also allows the animals to get used to Katelyn. Beyond showing livestock, the bit about interacting with the public is Katelyn’s focus at the fair. “That’s one of my favorite things – about this – to educate the public.”

Riley – Rockingham County Cottontail’s 4-H Club, Rockingham County

“I came to the Stratham Fair to show rabbits,” Riley says, mentioning one rabbit that is 17 years old. But for Riley, a member of his county’s Youth Leadership Team, the fair season has not been his busiest this past year. “The big thing was planning the 4-H Teen Conference. It’s workshops and day trips so that teens can get an idea of living the college life.” Staying on the University of New Hampshire campus for four days in June, 4-H teens in New Hampshire gathered to learn from experts, each other, and engage in team building and friendship.

If you are curious about 4-H, fairs are a great opportunity to see 4-H projects in action, and to meet members and volunteer leaders. We hope to see you on the 2018 fair circuit!

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Anna Boudreau
State Advisory Council Chair, Natural Resources Steward and NH Coverts Cooperator