Sunday, August 8, 2010

Are You Going to 'the 4-H' Fair...

With a nod to Simon and Garfunkel's Scarborough Fair, I write this entry.  Today was the last day of 2010's Middlesex-New Haven 4-H Fair.  For my family (and those of many other 4-H'ers), this means a return to normalcy.  4-H is a great organization that focuses on the child.  Often mistaken for being strictly about raising and caring for farm animals, 4-H clubs will actually help children learn a variety of skills.  Some clubs focus on things like archery, robotics, cooking/baking, arts and crafts, photography, and - of course - various animals including rabbits, goats, sheep, and cattle.

This weekend was our county's annual fair.  This is three days of exhibits, showmanship, and fun and games that allows children to display their skills and abilities.  Our fair is held each year at the Durham Fairgrounds in Durham, CT.  4-H rents out three of the 'barns' and a couple of the other buildings in which to hold the fair.  One barn - the one where my family spends most of our time over the three days - is split between the 'Home Arts' exhibits and various other activities.  My daughters - and their club, Cromwell Clovers - are primarily focused on arts and crafts.

This year, their projects included a platform/loft bed, a chair and matching table, jewelry, pottery pieces, paintings and drawings, and they each baked and decorated a cake.  Because of the number and size of their projects, we actually had to rent a U-Haul van to transport everything to the fair!

This past Wednesday, we started loading in and registering the smaller projects.  We loaded the car and headed down to the fairgrounds.  We were able to get about 50% of their projects registered.
Thursday was spent at home making the final preparations - baking and decorating the cakes among the activities.
Friday, the opening day of the fair, was spent bringing the remaining projects to the fairgrounds.  Our day began by going to pick up the U-Haul van.  We then began to load the pieces of the bed into the van.  These pieces had been residing in our living room - leaning against one wall - since the painting of it was completed, so it was nice to be able to reclaim the room.  After everyone placed their projects, the barn was closed for judging.  Rae was asked to be a judge, so the girls and I left her there.  One of our friends and fellow 4-H'ers was able to drive the girls home while I drove the U-Haul (just not enough seats in the van for both of them).
Saturday was the busy day.  First, the girls get to see how their projects did.  The Home Arts barn was a hive of activity while the exhibitors rushed from project to project to see their scores, ribbons, and comments from the judges.  The Kids' Barn events were held from 11 AM - 2 PM.  Kids' Barn is a time for the individual clubs to provide activities for the younger visitors to the fair.  The clubs can create a themed activity center that allows the kids to play games and learn in the process.  The clubs are also judged on their adherence to their chosen theme and the participation of the club members.  Because this is a club activity, everyone is expected to participate.  Home Arts also holds their Premier Showman competition on Saturday and both girls qualified for this.  After Premier Showman, the girls had to rush over to another barn to show their rabbits.  Finally we were done for the day.
Sunday is a little less stressful.  Victoria was the Superintendent for the cat show that was held today.  This basically means that she needs to assist the judge (who also happens to be the leader of our club).  If it weren't for this, we could have gotten to the fairgrounds a little later.  After the cat show, the girls were participating in the Expressive Arts event.  Somewhat different from public speaking (which they elected not to do this time), Expressive Arts is more of a talent show.  Participants are able to do just about anything that isn't a speech - comedy routine, dance, musical performance, etc. - for this event.  After this, we were all done except for the load out.  We had some time to visit with other 4-H families that we really only get to see at the fair.  At 5:00 PM, we began to collect the exhibits and the rabbits and prepared to head home leaving the fairgrounds cleaner than when we arrived.

Aside from being a great family weekend, I was able to gauge my personal progress toward wellness.  As the fair occurs every year and tends to be equally stressful each time, I can sort of judge where I am health-wise by how poorly or how well I handle the activity.  This year was likely the most physically demanding of all of the fairs that we have participated in.  The projects we moved were much bigger and heavier than in years past.
The fact that I am still awake at 10 PM and writing this entry is already a major improvement for me!  I didn't feel the same level of fatigue that I have grown to expect.  The fair itself held some fantastic experiences but one of the best things for me is the way I feel now that it is over.

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