Lessons from fair can last a lifetime

By Marilyn J. Drew
Posted 7/25/19

I became a 4-H member the summer I was 9 years old. The rule said you had to be 10, but my birthday wasn’t until October so they made an exception.

It was 1957 and I was the youngest …

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Lessons from fair can last a lifetime


I became a 4-H member the summer I was 9 years old. The rule said you had to be 10, but my birthday wasn’t until October so they made an exception.

It was 1957 and I was the youngest daughter of a farmer and his wife in Fremont County, Wyoming. My four siblings had all been members of the Tri-Valley 4-H Club and I would follow suit, going through all levels of the club in the next eight years.

I started with cooking and then took sewing, photography, leather crafting, home improvement and junior leadership. I never worked with animals, but had plenty of friends who did. Therefore when it came time for county fair, I was busy every day.

One summer I made so many muffins that I thought I would never want to eat one again. My mother was my overseer, but my leaders were the ones I wanted to please. They enticed me with the potential of winning purple ribbons and a right to enter state fair. Along the way, they also frequently reminded me of the pledge I had made when I became a member:

“I pledge my head to clearer thinking,

My heart to greater loyalty,

My hands to larger service,

and my health to better living,

for my club, my community, my country and my world.”

The words would stick with me for a lifetime.

One fair, my brother Larry lost most of his produce exhibits due to a sudden hailstorm the week before. I couldn’t help but think of this a couple of weeks ago when a similar storm passed through our area on a Sunday afternoon.

I never experienced such disappointment, but offer a shout-out to others who have. The loss must have been heartbreaking.

Last Saturday I caught up with a group of 4-Hers at Washington Park in Powell who were practicing showmanship of their poultry. There were three clubs represented: Willwood, Off the Grid and Little Hoover. Heather Morrison, leader of the Off the Grid Club, said the session was an impromptu gathering to give the 10 participants an opportunity to practice their skills before the fair. Starla Craig leads the Willwood Club and Lisa Eaton the Little Hoover Club. (Interestingly, Starla is the daughter of one of my first 4-H leaders — Mary Griffin Hall Gradert of Fremont County.)

Young Katie Morrison controlled her laying hen with one finger as she showed her to a mock judge. Explaining each part of the bird in detail, Katie moved from beak to foot in her excellent presentation. Older sister Allison Morrison stepped in a couple of times, correcting her sister on minor points. They worked together well, more interested in getting the facts of Katie’s poultry exhibit correct than competing with one another.

I stepped forward to see the vent of Katie’s bird when Allison held it open for all to view.

“This is where the eggs come out,” she said, unembarrassed by the fact that the way to determine if the hen is a layer is the two-finger width of the vent. “The judges will also check the vent area to see if your chicken has any mites,” she added.

There was much discussion among the 4-Hers about what was in their chicken’s craw, what color the eggs would be if the chicken’s ear lobes were red and about the three types of feathers in their tails — primary, axles and secondary.

The exhibitors were cautioned to look for lemons put in their chicken’s cages by fair goers. Apparently lemons make the poultry sick, but watermelon is an acceptable treat.

The Park County Fair is a celebration of Park County and highlights our agricultural way of life. It is a wholesome way for families to learn more about 4-H, the FFA and the many opportunities available for young people in northwest Wyoming

As I remember the thrill of a purple ribbon, the joy of helping a friend wash their steer and the many hours spent working as a junior leader at the fair, I am grateful for the years I spent as a 4-H member. It is still a very big part of who I am.