SIDNEY — The youth building at the Shelby County Fair grounds was all abuzz and full of excitement Wednesday morning as the 4-H Junior Fair creative arts, creative writing and demonstrations/illustrative talks judging were underway.
The 2017 Shelby County Fair is right around the corner and area 4-H members are part of the prefair activities.
On Wednesday morning, over 100 young people proudly toted in the projects they had been developing for months to compete for a chance to become an Ohio State Fair qualifier. The energy was palpable.
“Since I did this last year, I felt a little better than I did my first year, because I knew that I did this before. So I knew it would be good. And I knew I made a nice blanket, so that helped me for judging,” said Marie Ballas, 10, daughter of Karen and Mike and Ballas, of Fort Loramie, on her thoughts of going into the judging of her crocheted ocean themed blanket.
Marie is one of four out of her five siblings competing at the Junior Fair. Her mother Karen said it can be difficult to step back and not get too involved with her children’s projects, especially when they don’t want her help.
“I think for me as a parent, it’s been a great experience learning how to step back keep your hands off,” Karen Ballas said with a laugh. “(Their projects) keeps them busy during the summer.”
Junior Fair judges are those experienced with the fair/4-H. They typically live up to a couple of hours away and often travel around to other fairs, or the state fair, to serve as judges. The general rule of thumb, said Olivia Maurer, Junior Fair Board Secretary, is to avoid using local people from the community as judges, unless no one else is available, to dodge biases.
Each of the classes judged during the week before the fair, which vary from photography to creative arts to flower gardening, have several sub-classes for the junior and senior age levels. Juniors are children age 8 to 13 years old; seniors are 14 to 18 years of age. Each sub-class results in ribbon winners as state qualifier, outstanding of the day — which often is the same as the state qualifier — and honorable mention. Also an alternate is chosen in case the state qualifier is unable to attend the state fair.
Sometimes top winners also receive a prize if donated by area businesses or people who have had children previously compete. The prizes range from plaques to clocks to things associated with the area of competition, such as sewing kits, cookbooks or pens.
“It was very exciting to see how excited (the children) were about their topic,” said demonstrations judge Derek McCracken, of Anna. “There were a couple kids that you could tell were very passionate about their topic, and I think that shows a lot more, sometimes, than what they are saying; that they are excited about it.”
Demonstrations judge Stacie McCracken, of Anna, said, “It was fun. We have them introduce theme selves to start off with and sometimes their voices were quivering … but then they would start those first couple of words of their demonstration, and then they were confident; and they were sharing something they were very passionate about. — It was neat to see this kid that you could tell was really nervous on the inside get rolling and have the confidence to give their speech.”
Stacie and Derek said they have been involved with 4-H their entire lives and were happy to help when asked. They said 4-H shaped their character and they enjoy giving back. Both were members and have been camp councilors. Stacie also has been an advisor. Derek is an FFA advisor for Houston High School.
Joseph Ballas, 16, son of Karen and Mike and Ballas, of Fort Loramie, said he has participated in the Junior Fair for the past seven or eight years and thinks it’s “fun and a good learning experience.” He competed this year in the creative writing class, which he had prepared for since the end of May. Joseph said he has taken top prize at the Ohio State Fair in the past for woodworking.
“I think it’s important for scientists to be able to communicate with the community,” Joseph said, of what motivated him to compete in the writing class since he aspires to become a scientist.
Mariana Reese, 13, daughter of Jerry and Lisa Reese, of Sidney, competed in the creative writing class. She has won Best of Class twice before and Best over all once, she said.
“Right now I’m just having fun,” Reese said, when asked if she thought she wanted to become a writer.
The 2017 Shelby County Fair is from July 23 through July 29. Visit www.shelbycountyfair.com for a full schedule of events.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.