NEW ALBANY — This was the first year for Selby Rae Bays to participate in the Floyd County 4-H Fair, and she did it with a mind to help others learn about animals.

The 7-year-old and her family brought five goats and two chickens — and put the call out for other kids who may not have an animal to show one of theirs.

"It felt good inside because sharing is caring," Bays said. "These kids never got to show a goat and it's my first year too so I wanted to make them happy and I feel like it's the right thing to do."

Bays and her family helped teach the other kids about each of the goats — their age, breed and even their personalities.

"We just tried to bring enough goats for everybody," Bays' mother, Melissa Bays, said. "Before the show we made the announcement if you want to show, and practice and get a participation ribbon, grab a goat."

"Everybody had a good time and learned how to participate."

Because of her age, Bays is considered a "mini" 4-H member, that is until she gets to third grade in two years. The minis are able to show certain animals for participation, but can't compete for ribbons as the older kids do.

Bringing more animals like the Bays did can open up doors — to help younger kids get started or lend to those who can't have farm animals at home.

That's what Harrison County resident Athenus Mattingly had in mind when she brought what she jokingly referred to as "Noah's Ark" — two sheep, two goats, two miniature pigs, three rabbits and a miniature horse.

"We don't have really fancy show quality, we have mostly pets, and everything is rescue," she said. "That's how we do it."

The Greenville kindergarten teacher brings the animals to the fair, to school and even teaches a class at her home, to help teach little ones about them. She and another teacher and friend started a 4-H club at the school to try to get younger kids involved and let them know you don't have to have animals. They soon got more than 80 members.

"We bring all kinds of animals in for kids to see and learn about, to pet and to touch," she said. Mattingly added that it's not true at all that the younger kids have to have an animal to get started in 4-H.

"You don't have to," she said. "We have some!"

Friday morning, 4-H members extended their hands out beyond the local club, with one of the largest horse shows in recent Floyd County 4-H history.

Though there are only a handful of Floyd County members who own or lease horses to show, Friday's show had more than 40 participants from around the region.

"It's different; we've never really had this many people come," 12-year-old Morgan Froehle, who leases a horse, said. "I honestly love all these horses; I'm happy that there's so many here today."

Her mother, Debbie Haeberlin, said inviting others to the show makes for a better experience for all.

"This way, they get to have a competitive show," she said. "It's a full event at the fair."

Shanna McKim, who has two daughters who ride horses, said more participants bring more opportunities for kids to learn and have more fun.

"It gives them more confidence," she said. "They love horses through and through so anything with horses, they're in it. But the more kids we get come in and share their knowledge with them, the better all around."

Aprile Rickert is the crime and courts reporter at the News and Tribune. Contact her via email at or by phone at 812-206-2115. Follow her on Twitter: @Aperoll27.

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