Blue ribbons, sawdust and life lessons

Growing up in a 4-H family the pinnacle of my summer was the county fair. As the youngest of three girls, I took in all the fair had to offer long before I joined the Happy Hustlers club officially at the ripe age of 7. Well it all come full circle. This summer I was able to travel home to judge our fair. While I know it's not the same fair it was when I participated, it still has a special place in my heart and I hope still serves as a summer highlight for many 4-Hers. Here are my top 5 memories from the Finney County Fair


1. Baking up a storm- I've always been a procrastinator and baking for the fair was no different. I'm not sure why I thought it was a good idea to bake when it was 100+ degrees outside. But I learned about experimenting with recipes to make the perfect biscuits or apple pie. This experience has helped me create a passion for cooking and entertaining for friends and family to show my love.

2. Sawdust and steers- I showed sheep, steers and pigs throughout my 4-H tenure. They taught me responsibility, humility, hard work and helped shape some of my most valued friendships. I used to say I had my weekday friends that lived in town and then my weekend friends were those from the surrounding counties that I competed against in the ring, but also loved outside of the ring. Just like some kids had traveling sports all spring and summer, we had spring and summer shows. When I was in a bad accident, my weekend friends all jumped in to help my family so all the hard work I'd put into my animals didn't go to waste. My senior year I wanted to go out with a bang in the auction ring so I taught my pigs to do tricks. Yes, they will sit for oreos, oh and they loved powdered donuts too. The hard work paid off and the money I earned from my success with my animals helped with my college education.

3. Camping with my cousins- We were not a big camping or outdoorsy family, so our "camping" was staying in the air conditioned camper with running water at the county fair. Yes, we could just drive home as it was only about 20 minutes from the fairgrounds, but every year we'd convince mom and dad to let us stay over at least one night. Growing up my cousins were close to us in age and some of our best friends. I still remember making up silly songs including changing the words of a Patty Loveless song to include my cousins steers Elvis and Belvis. I was also "honored" by cousin Molly to have a goat named after me. I'm taking it as a complement, even if it wasn't the intention. Love ya Molly Dolly.

4. Demonstrating my future- When your do your first demonstration in front of your 4-H club of friends at the age of 7, it took the fear out of public speaking. I love doing demonstrations and project talks. Over the years some of my highlights include make the rabbits out of washcloths, a team demonstration on tailgating recipes with my life-long friend Kelsey, promoting beef while highlighting beef by products and of course the famous, Don't Let the Cat out of the Bag. The photo says it all.

5. Showing my cat- Speaking of cats, I just loved them. I was the kid that wanted everything cats, including clothes, my comforter in my room, many fabulous figurines, you get the drift. Well, I was in the project called "Enjoying your hand pets" and of course I picked my cat. One hangup, my cat was not a show cat, instead it was a farm cat that was tame enough to catch. His job was to live outside and catch mice, not to keep me company and snuggle, and I was totally fine with our arrangement. However, I pushed the limit, and convinced our patient 4-H agent Cathy to start a hand pet show. That involved me getting to bring my cat, along with other 4-Hers who brought pets like gerbils, lizards, etc. It was a requirement that our pets had to have their shots for the show. Well, my farm cat did not have his shots, and my dad wasn't stoked about the investment, however he gave in. The kicker of the whole experience, I found out I was allergic to cats, who knew. Obviously it's an experience I still chuckle at today.

I want to say thank you to all my project leaders, community leaders, 4-H agents, my parents, friends parents and everyone in our county that made Finney County 4-H a great way to grow up, learn leadership skills and even show a cat.