The Iowa State Fair is almost here. For the roughly 100 Webster County 4-H'ers who were chosen to take their projects on to the state level, it is a time of preparation, anticipation and nerves.
"It's kind of nerve-wracking. It's a lot to take in because it will be my first time," said Bryce Fevold, 12, of the Gowrie Groundbreakers 4-H Club.
Though he's been to the State Fair before with an educational presentation, this year Fevold will be showing hogs and cattle.
He's been busy getting his animals ready.
"We have my cattle in a cooling room," Fevold said. "Every other hour or so I'll go in and wash them off.
"It's the same with the pigs. We feed them differently, we keep them separated, we walk them every night, we wash them, we do everything."
The Iowa State Fair, which begins Thursday and runs through Aug. 19 in Des Moines, attracts a million visitors annually.
Iowa's ag-extravaganza is featured in the New York Times best-seller, "1,000 Places to See Before You Die."
The Fair inspired the novel "State Fair," three motion pictures and a Broadway musical.
He said the State Fair was more work than the county fair, because you end up washing the animals pretty much every day.
Fevold wasn't sure which days he would be showing, though he knew one of them was Aug. 14. He said he enjoys the food at the State Fair.
"The food's fun," he said. "Just being able to hang out, look at other cattle and other pigs, or go down the big yellow slide."
Sixteen-year-old Sadie Lewman is also showing an animal at the fair for the first time. Lewman and her dog Quinn will be competing in the dog show on Aug. 19.
She's been there before with static exhibits, but this is different.
"With static exhibits," she said, "like art stuff and whatnot, you don't actually go. They take it for you. You have to make sure your goal cards are really concise and explain everything, because that's what you're being judged on. You don't get to explain anything."
She said she's never been to the State Fair dog show, so she really doesn't know what to expect.
"I'm kind of just working really hard on what she knows, especially the things she's not as good at, like her figure eights," Lewman said.
Brooklin Border is going to state with one of those static exhibits. She got the idea for her poster based on a project she did for last year's county fair.
"Last year I made a birdhouse," Border said. "The judge asked me what type of bird would go into the house, and I said I didn't know. He said I should make a poster explaining what different types of birds go in what size hole."
So she did. According to her poster, nuthatches, wrens, titmouses and downy woodpeckers are the right size for the 1 1/4 inch hole in her birdhouse.
Border, 12, is a member of the Douglas Dreamers. She went to state last year with her sister, but this is her first time going individually.
Karrigan Mentzer said showing rabbits at the State Fair is not that different from at the county fair.
"When you get there you have to have a vet look them over. We don't do that at the county fair," said Mentzer, 13, of the Dayton Tigers.
To get the animals ready, Mentzer said she does "the same things you do for the county fair. You get the rabbits out a lot, try to keep shedding under control. You brush them and use the lint roller."
Mentzer said all the rabbits are very sensitive to the heat, so she provides cooling fans for them.
What else does she like to do at the fair?
"I want to see the butter cow again. That was cool last year," she said.
Mentzer's rabbit show will be Aug. 16.
One Webster County fairgoer who knows what to expect is Ann McLoughlin, 18, of the Fort Dodge Falcons. McLoughlin has been to the fair before in a wide variety of areas. This year, she's going with a photograph, a pencil drawing, bread, a vocal duet, a working exhibit and a basket she wove herself.
McLoughlin said she took up basket weaving mostly because it was unusual.
"A few years ago, my mom thought it sounded like a good idea because nobody does it anymore," she said. "We bought a book on basket weaving, and Mom and I taught ourselves how to do it together."
McLoughlin has gotten better at it with practice, she said. It's a practical skill; she's made hampers for herself, her brother and her sister.
At the moment, the bread is taking the most preparation time.
"I have to re-make it and practice a few times," she said.
Both her working exhibit and her vocal duet will be Friday. That afternoon, she'll be free to explore the fair.
"I just like to look at animals first of all, but I also like - they have a lot of good free music. And the food is awesome," she said.
McLoughlin may be no stranger to the fair, but she doesn't take it for granted.
"It's really kind of an honor," she said. "I've had five siblings who have all been in 4-H. I've had the most success going to state, so it's a big privilege."