Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Why fairs are worth it

Levi, my kid who is normally boiling hot in any situation, braves the chill of the morning during setup at fair

As our family heads into the fourth 4H fair of the season, I have to remind myself why fairs are worth all the time, energy, work, funds and emotion that are inevitably poured into them.  There are many sacrifices made: the laundry becomes a mountain I never seem to summit and the garden gets neglected.    Large amounts of time are spent away from home and meals are certainly not well planned.  I'm heading into this third fair a little drained.  

Between the last fair and this one, we had a really special time with our extended family in Hawaii to be at my littlest brother's wedding.  When we returned, the tyranny of the urgent: garden, food preservation, school year prep, fairs... all threatened to knock the wind out of me.  Instead of allowing despair to set in, I took a strategic step back.  I made a list of the things that needed attention and tackled at least one a day.  Instead of pushing myself to breakdown, this time I've been careful to punctuate the hard work with visiting and spending time with my husband and dear friends and family.  In this way, I am energized for the mad frenzy of activity that I know awaits.  It has not been perfect.  Both my husband and I ran out of clean shorts today, but gosh, I am doing the best that I can.

There are certain things in our lives that are wholeheartedly worth an extra push of energy and commitment.  They are things that can only humanly be done for a short amount of time and not as an extended obligation.  We know that these things create significant opportunities for us and the people around us to grow in ways that are not easily achieved in other ways.  Things like summer camp, Vacation Bible School, rallies for various causes, fundraising initiatives and even marathons all push us to excel, learn and grow, and we know we need them in one fashion or another.  It is something akin to when God did all the work of creation in 7 days.  We are able to invest all of our resources and energy into a worthy cause, knowing that when it is done, we can rest and look back and say that it was good.

We have been doing 4H with the kids ever since we got goats about 6 or 7 years ago.  Eva, our oldest, was the first to do shows.  I am pretty sure that 4H and fairs have had a pivotal role in helping her as an introvert to feel safe coming out of herself.  There's no way to hide when you're in front of a judge and an audience of 30 strangers and a few peers.  You learn poise and eye contact and how to be confident in your words as you speak with the judge about your animal.  

Commitment is key in 4H and fairs.  The kids have learned that in order to have the privilege of showing at fairs in the summer, I ask them to attend every 4H meeting they can, participating at the level they can.  They each have daily responsibilities in caring for the animals, particularly as fall and winter set in and must learn dedication and perseverance.  Once they have signed up for a fair, they need to help walk the animals and clean them up in anticipation of show day.  This has been a huge challenge for my boys, who are not as interested in animals as they are in the premium money won when they are shown.  It's an opportunity for them to learn how to finish what they start, even if they don't plan to do it again next year.  It is excellent practice for the endless succession of commitment that life requires of us.  

Self discipline is required to be able to wake at 6AM on fair days to get to the fair and care for your animals.  They also learn this during herds, the time when kids interact with the public and care for the animals in the fair barn.  They must ask people if they have any questions, answering them to the best of their knowledge.  It's imperative that they show care and respect for the people, animals and grounds around them.  This is their chance to show off all they know about their animals and to get other people excited about them too.  And during the year, feeding animals on the days when you have to break the ice in the water or when the hill is so slick you slip and fall develops a kind of self discipline that can't come except when commitment is kept under the harshest of circumstances.

At fairs you are always thrown curve balls.  It's a microcosm of real life.  Many times, an animal the kids have worked with all year to take to fair will be sick or will have a temper tantrum at the fair.  Sometimes, the kids themselves are hot, hungry, tired, hormonal, jealous, timid.  They have to deal with each of these feelings and emotions in such a way that they still show respect to their peers and honor to their elders and superiors.  

For my kids, good sportsmanship is one of the key things they are learning to achieve.  After the last fair, I looked at myself and how I was reacting to some situations I deemed unfair or frustrating and realized I really needed to work on being a better example for my children.  As a parent, I have come to understand more deeply how my children process stressful, emotional and joyful situations, and as a result understand them more readily in the everyday things that happen.

Having the goal of fair on the horizon, the kids are motivated to persevere in their work and care for their animals and the projects that surround them.  The deadline of fair helps normal fair chores like vaccination, hoof trimming, fleece picking, shearing and parasite removal to get done.  I think it's a great thing to teach kids to work with a deadline like this, because it inspires them to create their own personal incremental deadlines in order to achieve their goals.  

Fairs and other intense situations like them prepare us for the trials of life, creating an emotional memory bank.  We can look back on how we dealt with situations that were out of our control and learn how better to approach them next time and feel more prepared as we move forward.  We have the opportunity to push ourselves and watch ourselves achieve great things.  Other times we fail.  We learn to stick to what we have committed to, and learn to finish well.  We learn how interact with others with care and respect.  We learn to trust our selves in front of others and gain confidence.  Yes, it's worth it.

My good friend Josie and I have a joke among us that we take pictures to help us to remember.  We love photography and we seem to feel incomplete without our cameras.  I think it's because the camera forces us to focus on the moment we are experiencing and to condense it into something memorable.  Sometimes I take pictures with my "eye camera," purposely framing a moment or a beautiful thing I have seen, just so I will remember it.  In the same way, my camera helps me to remember fairs, long after the sleepless nights have been made up for.     

Fairs aren't all hard work and no play.  The kids get to take some time to enjoy games and the fun activities that fairs provide.  Levi is doing the sack races here.
The kids flip their goat in order to clean her feet for fair. 
This is a moment that makes it all worthwhile
Levi learns that patience is a virtue as he waits to show
Setting up the goat's feet in the ring
Faced with a snarl.  Just like real life.  
Friends and family to support them... so sweet. 
Cuteness factor overload as Maia sets up her goat's feet.

Our sweet momma goat and her babies
Beautiful granary and sky
A snuggle at the petting zoo
cousin time

my photo collage earned a nice ribbon
The dahlias that come back every year
Most of my produce got 2nd and 3rd place.  :(  Price to pay for being a busy mom
Maia's art
Levi's art 
Isaac's fishing lego guy with a shark coming to get his line
Watching a friend's daughter show
Prepping honey to show

Getting tired

She has hit her wall.
Early morning stall cleanup
After having a bad reaction to a sting, she's been so afraid of bees she didn't want summer and flowers to come.  Visiting the bee exhibit was Saraiah's obsession this fair.  She knows EVERYTHING about them now and will teach you.


Watching another friend show her goat.
Donut eating contest

Just one ride, thanks to some spare tickets given to Levi
Trying to make the biggest felt ball ever 
A gigantic disappointment.  Eva was told she was going to the overall exhibitor competition for the fair, called Round Robin, but found that she was not permitted, due to a technicality.  This was supposed to be held up for her as she competed.  Instead, she held up the other side, with the help of some friends, for one of their fellow club members. 
Costume contest fun.  Levi and his goat are Hawaiian grass skirt wearers.
A cowboy goat
She said she was the wicked stepsister and her goat was cinderella.
Last thing, then we were off to Hawaii for my brother's wedding!


  1. Love all the pictures, What technicality was Eva unable to show under??

  2. The judge was new and didn't understand that you don't judge different age categories against each other and gave eva a red ribbon when she should have gotten a blue ribbon. Red ribbons usually only are given out if a person has done a horrible job. Red ribbons cannot go to round robin. The alpaca superintendent didn't know this and reassured us on many occasions that eva would be going to round robin and she studied and learned all the other animal showing techniques, only to be unable to show. It was hard, to say the least.

  3. Awesome photos Angie! Love the shot of Brih and Daisy! Thanks for grabbing those! Hope Monroe goes well for you guys!


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