As I write this, the Clay County Fair is in full-swing and the Fillmore County Fair about to begin, so this article highlights some interesting findings about what youth enjoy the most during a county fair experience. Every county fair, provides 4-H youth across the state with an opportunity to showcase the project work that they have completed throughout the year and to receive recognition for their efforts.
Model rockets that have been assembled from basic materials, cookies that will make your mouth water, sheep that are sheared for the big show, and many other exhibits can most likely be seen at your local county fair. Through these projects, youth develop self-confidence by experiencing success at solving problems and meeting challenges. County fairs provide a safe environment for youth to make mistakes and to receive constructive feedback, not only through competition, but also through their participation.
4-H youth look forward to the county fair because of the fun that this time of year brings. In a recent study, many youth reported that they are motivated each year to participate in the county fair because they have fun. Whether showing a market steer, modeling a garment in the Fashion Revue, or exhibiting a GIS map of a local park, youth across all project areas compete and participate in the county fair activities because they are fun.
Youth also shared that “achieving goals,” “spending time with friend,” and “teamwork” contributed toward their engagement in the annual county fair. Recognition, competition, fair premiums, and qualifying for the state fair ranked low in comparison to these other motivating factors.
Important educational youth development opportunities also exist within the 4-H fair experience. By completing 4-H projects and activities at the local fair and throughout the year, youth are mastering skills to make positive career and life choices. It is important for youth to discover in a non-threatening setting that certain vocations may or may not be right for them.
Give 4-H youth at your local county fair a grand champion experience by providing constructive feedback and encouragement. Your words and actions will allow youth to discover their own personal strengths and weaknesses through their 4-H project areas, all while having fun in a positive county fair environment.
Source: Eric Stehlik, Extension Assistant in Saline County. This article comes from a series of resources developed by 4-H Youth Development professionals.