Wright County Fair carries on 4-H tradition
EAGLE GROVE — In the hustle and bustle of the annual fair, it’s easy to forget why it happens every year. But Wright County 4-H’ers remember why they take stubborn goats, squealing pigs and reluctant sheep around the ring each year.
“If you don’t keep them busy, they’ll get into trouble,” said Adelyn Bimsand as she sprayed down her hog, Pablo, to keep the flies off of him.
They get into trouble because they’re as smart as toddlers — an appeal to the 10-year-old Country Bumpkins 4-H’er who has raised about 10 hogs over the last couple years.
Pablo acquiesced as she soothingly ran the brush over the wiry hair accenting his pink skin, while other hogs mostly napped throughout the barn, taking advantage of the calm before the storm.
But she said that even though he was on his best behavior for the fair Friday, he can get ornery.
He is a pig, after all.
Nearby, Creighton Kelly from the Britt Broncos 4-H Club made some extra summer cash by buzzing over another 4-H’er’s hog for a trim. He meticulously kneels in the lucky hog’s shaded spot checking each pass to ensure the hair is about one-eighth of an inch.
“My kids raised pigs, and now my grandkids do it,” said his grandfather, Scott Christiansen.
He sat in his lawn chair watching Kelly, smiling in the sun just to see some hard work put in by one of his grandkids. The tradition means a lot to the soybean farmer and his family, he said.
Nearby, Swine Superintendent Brian Worden organizes a few things under a tent. He hopes that a good experience with the kids is what makes it worth the effort all superintendents put in for their 4-H’ers. He’s been doing it for 15 years, after all, about half the amount of time he had lived in Wright County — it must mean something.
“The numbers are somewhat dwindling because of acreages and the amount of money it costs,” he said.
Many children’s parents today are either landlocked, too busy to get their children involved or don’t have the resources to do so.
Special projects that allow the kids to keep their animals at one location, volunteered by someone with some extra space on their property, help in the endeavor to keep involvement up.
“Hopefully we can do more of that,” Worden said.
That hope is perhaps understated for the tradition as the population of rural Iowa continues to dwindle in most areas. Wright County is no exception.
“Hopefully, a lot of them want to stay in Iowa,” he said. “That’s what has made our county great — that the kids come back.”
And, the work ethic produced by Iowa’s 4-H clubs is unparalleled, he added. It’s a lot more than just moving them through the ring for a ribbon.
“That’s what the future is, the younger kids,” said Worden.
If rural counties like Wright want to keep them, they need to get them interested early to later take advantage of the abundance of opportunity available to those with agricultural skills.
But watching their hard work pay off in the moment is a reward in itself, long-term investments aside.
“If they do like it, you want to keep them excited about it,” he said.
Kids who get involved too late get booked with sports, extracurriculars and jobs, leaving no room for the county fair.
To that end, categories like bottle bucket calves help get those from kindergarten to age 12 started earlier. Superintendent Shorty Anderson says their numbers have remained relatively stable. Thirty-six kids are showing calves this year.
“It’s just a really good experience,” she said, which she got hooked on 12 years ago.
Despite no childhood 4-H experience, she got roped in with her children and grandchildren. Learning how to express themselves in fair interviews and taking care of the calf from birth instills an unparalleled experience that carries over to other areas of their lives, she said.
“This is an agriculture county,” she said, meaning it’s imperative that these kinds of traditions continue.
Those traditions mean “everything” to them. It’s more than just raising cows.
“It’s a family thing,” Anderson said.