CLARK COUNTY — The Clark County 4-H Fairgrounds buzzed with energy Friday night as hundreds streamed in for the kickoff of the annual fair — the first in person since before the pandemic.

Starting at 5 p.m., students and their families waited patiently to register the indoor projects they’d worked on over the past year — everything from cupcake decorating to sewing to photography and Lego models. These projects were judged Friday, with results being announced this morning.

Katharine Renners, 8, spread her projects across a table in the “mini” section, for younger children. Of the 15 she turned in, her favorites including decorated cupcakes and a pillow she’d sewn. But she said she was really looking forward to seeing the animals Saturday morning, particularly her brother’s.

“I’m excited to see the pigs and see how my projects do,” she said. “Because my brother does pigs and chickens.”

Renners wasn’t the only ambitious participant this year. Henryville students Emma Hargis, 10, and Jozie Hargis, 8, were taking part for the first time. They’d both brought food they made, and Emma will also be showing Sheila the goat.

Katie Whiteford, 4-H educator who helped organize and oversee the fair, said participation was up over years past, with 400 people submitting this year.

“We have a bunch of projects and I think kids are just excited that we’re back in person and having a fair, and being able to show all of their hard work [from] throughout the year,” she said. “I think our project participation is up from a couple years ago because kids have had more time to kind of look at stuff and complete their projects. They’re just excited about finally participating again, it seems like it’s been awhile since they were able to do 4-H.”

Whiteford added that she and others look forward to the family atmosphere of the event.

“People get to see people they don’t normally see on a regular basis,” she said. “They get to share with their family and there’s a lot of history here, a lot of parents and great-grandparents that participated in some format, so it’s just kind of that family reunion-type feeling.”

In one of the indoor project buildings, volunteer Sam McCollum studied the intricate Lego model projects before him, pieces grouped by skill level and age. He’ll also be judging other types of models.

“I’ve been doing models since I was a kid and I always was just fond at judging them, as well,” said McCollum, who indicated he enjoys helping kids advance their building skills. “So I look at all the little things like the type of glue that’s used as well as the amount of paint and that kind of stuff.

“It’s not about criticizing, it’s about encouraging them to continue to get better.”

Just before 6 p.m., families lined up for tickets to the rides and games. Chad Sturgis, a ride operator at the event, said he was really excited to see everyone have a great week.

“What I’m looking forward to is making sure everyone has a great time,” he said. “Especially the children, because the children have been stuck inside due to corona and everything for so long that us parents and them deserve a great year.”

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