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July 13, 2014

Lessons from the Clark County 4-H Fair

Kids, livestock take center stage

CHARLESTOWN — During the second day of the Clark County 4-H Fair on Saturday fairgoers had their first chance to see the event’s two biggest attractions: livestock and the children who handle the animals.

Early in the day Hannah Bast, 11, Charlestown, prepared to show a nearly 300 pound, 2-year-old llama, Maximus, on an obstacle course later in the afternoon.

“They are easy to train,” Bast said of working with llamas, which she has done since she was 8 years old.

She said it’s a fun experience to care for the animals at her family farm and that she always makes friends at agricultural events like the Clark County 4-H Fair.

Bast’s family got Maximus from Tennessee, when he was less than a year old and weighed a hefty 100 pounds.

Bast’s mother, Gina Bast, said kids who are involved in 4-H programs can learn confidence though showmanship, patience by working with often stubborn and much larger animals and how to compete graciously, win or lose.

While all 4-H children prepare for competitions at home, the younger kids often learn during the competitions by watching the older and more experienced competitors.

Keegan Traub, 19, Charlestown, has been involved in 4-H for 10 years and said he is competing in his last year of 4-H this week before aging out of the program.

“I’m going to miss it,” Traub said. “I’m going to miss it pretty bad. I love showing.”

During the nine days of festivities and competition, Traub will show llamas, horses, sheep and swine. After leaving 4-H, Traub plans to progress to “open shows” which will take him around the country where he will continue to work with horses and llamas.

Like the younger competitors, Traub said he has fun showing the animals, but that he approaches the competitions with intensity.

“I’ve had several judges say that I take it too seriously,” he said.

Traub said he hopes to be named “supreme showman” during his last Clark County 4-H Fair as a competitor.

While Traub has spent a decade honing his skills as a livestock showman, he said the animals aren’t the only reason he has remained committed to 4-H.

“You meet a lot of girls showing animals,” he said.

In a barn located next to where Bast and Traub worked with their llamas, other children were getting their poultry and rabbits settled in for the fair.

Samantha Haley, 17, New Washington, is entering a rabbit, Bunny Foo Foo, and several chickens and turkeys.

Haley said she has been a 4-H competitor for six years because, “I like being down here with all the animals.”

After two more years of 4-H competitions, Haley said she wants to work toward becoming a veterinarian.

“I love to bring my animals down here where people can touch them and interact with them because a lot of people don’t get to do that,” she said. “I love to have them here for just educational purposes.”

Haley brought to the fair Buddy Jr., a large, colorful and friendly Tom Turkey.

She said she raised the turkey from a chick, which has made him comfortable around people.

“For the longest time Buddy Jr. would stay in my room. So, I would be playing video games, and I would have this great big turkey sitting on my lap,” Haley said.

She said the robust Clark County 4-H program benefits both the 4-H children and community members who rarely have an opportunity interact with farm animals. While some of the 4-H events are show animals, other children, like 14-year-old Dakota Russell, actually get in the saddle during their competitions.

Russell, Floyds Knobs, sat atop her horse, Diesel, an American Quarter Horse, during a trail riding competition Saturday.

The trail only took about one minute to traverse, but Russell and the other children had to show a high amount of control over their horses during the short competition.

On the course, the children had to open and close a gate while on their horses, signal the horse to begin and slow from a trot and to walk backward and forward through an L-shaped pattern mark on the ground

“I’ve been riding for about five or six years,” Russell said. “I like the connection with my horse. We got him at a young age. We have kind of just bonded over the period I’ve rode, and it has been a great experience.”

She said she gets a lot of support from her family and has gone as far as Louisiana to compete in riding competitions.

“Coming into 4-H allows you to meet a variety of people who do a variety of things in the horse world,” Russell said. “It lets you make more friends and gives you the confidence if you want to go pro.”

Throughout the fair, 4-H judges scrutinize the skills of young competitors and the appearance animals, from llamas, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry.

But on Saturday, even babies were judged in a fun-spirited Baby Fair.

One of babies who walked away with a blue ribbon for cuteness was Owen Cristiani-Hunt, who will be turning 8 months old this week. Owen won his age division, seven to 12 months old.

“He won for cuteness, personality and attitude,” said Owen’s proud mother, Rachel Cristiani, 18, Sellersburg.

Cristiani said she entered Owen in the competition just for fun, but she was confident from the start.

“I think I have the cutest baby,” she said, laughing, with a smiling Owen in her arms. “He is an extremely happy baby. He is always active. He is always smiling. He is hardly ever crying and that is only when he is hungry.”

Cristiani said the Baby Fair was a lot of fun and that she will likely enter Owen in the competition again next year.

“It feels really good,” Cristiani said.

The Clark County 4-H fair continues until Saturday, July 19, at the fairgrounds located in Charlestown at 9608 Ind. 62.

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