The smell of kettle corn waifs through the air, a multitude of sounds both mechanical and animal assaults the ears, there is hustle and bustle everywhere…
It was finally here – the time of year most 4-H’ers long for, bigger then Christmas – the Armada Fair! Although not a true 4-H fair, 4-H volunteers’ involvement and dedication cannot be denied. Youth spend endless hours volunteering, cleaning and preparing the barns and grounds. Adults selflessly take vacation time just to be present fair week. For many in this community, the relationship with the Armada Fair goes back several generations. It would be hard pressed to find a building or piece of equipment that has not been donated by either monetary or through the labor of 4-H hands. Year after year, the Armada Fair Board and the 4-H community come together and pull together another successful fair season. It’s what the public comes to see – the youth and their exhibits. For me, a 4-H program coordinator, it means local youth will be given the opportunity to complete projects that will in turn give them valuable life skills.
The week kicks off with the Sunday Judging event, the judging of still or non-livestock projects. The Sunday prior to opening day, under a huge white tent, are stationed roughly 50 picnic tables with judges looking to review all the projects. Youth begin lining up around 9 a.m. Participants anxiously await their turn at their prospective judge. They are escorted by a volunteer teen clerk when the judge is available. 4-H judges are carefully instructed on how to deliver positive feedback, the compliment sandwich if you will. They are selected because of their expertise in a particular field and their passion for youth development. 4-H uses the Danish Judging system and this is one of my favorite things about 4-H. All projects are graded on a rubric. Youth receive a ribbon depending on their score. That is why you may see many ribbons of the same color in the same age group. Youth are evaluated on their efforts not against each other. Everyone gets something. Teen clerks then run the judged projects to the Exhibit Barn where they will be displayed to fair patrons for the remainder of the week. The whole event is highly organized and usually over by 3 pm. During the week are the livestock judging events, everything from rabbits to steers.
For the participants ages 5-19, it’s a chance to showcase a year of hard work in learning a craft, raising livestock or demonstrating presentation skills. It’s a long week of working together getting to know each other and promoting 4-H. It is evident to me as I stroll from barn to barn they have all learned so many things. There is nothing as entrancing as listening to Lenae Kudzia from North Country 4-H club, age 10, speak so passionately and knowledgeable about her goat project. This young lady has been doing goats for five years and even delivered her own kids this season. Or in reading her brother Wade’s project book. It is obvious the growth and progression this young man acquired over the last 11 years in his livestock project. There are so many project areas I could speak of from horses to stained glass, but I suggest that next year you make the trip to Armada and see for yourself all the amazing things Macomb County 4-H youth are doing!
Lizz Duran is 4-H program coordinator for Michigan State Extension, Macomb County.