JIM CREES: A big salute to 4-H families

KIDS AND CALVES: A young 4-H'er practices leading her calf. Kids of all ages participate at fair, some showing only one animal or project, and some showing everything in the fair book. (Herald Review photo/Justin McKee)
KIDS AND CALVES: A young 4-H’er practices leading her calf. Kids of all ages participate at fair, some showing only one animal or project, and some showing everything in the fair book. (Herald Review photo/Justin McKee)

Well... local fair have wrapped up for another year.

Fairgrounds in Marion, Big Rapids, and Evart are virtually empty after a short but exceptionally intense period of activity.

Fair board members are putting their feet up for a day or two before heading back to the drawing board and starting to line up next year’s week-long session.

4-H organizers and club leaders are finally breathing a sigh of relief after a frantic week of seemingly non-stop action.

4-H kids have gone home and are considering what to do with auction and premium earnings, and what to raise for next year’s fair.

Our county fairs, and fairs in neighboring counties as well, offer an interesting view of life.

Adults and young people alike work and plan all year long for what often is an astonishingly short appearance in the show ring, arena, or exhibit barn.

So much planning. So much anticipation. So much fun.

And then... they start all over again getting ready for next year.

The period immediately following the fair has become one in which I “traditionally” take a few inches of space in our newspapers to salute a very special type of person — the 4-Her’s in this and neighboring counties and, indeed, throughout the state.

We live in a time, a society, and a general environment in which it is far, far too easy to gripe and grown about “... those kids today.”

I regularly hear complaints about everything from “... their music” to “... they can’t count down change.”

In so many ways we’ve become a nation of grumpy old folks philosophically shaking our fists and yelling “Get off my lawn!”

But there are so many good kids out “there” doing good things.

4-H, s’il vous plaît.

I’ve written the praises of 4-H and the kids involved with that program before. I will probably do so again.

Every time I’ve been lucky enough to spend time at the fairgrounds during fair time, I have walked away admiring the work ethic, cooperative spirit, common decency, and just good neighbor-esque attitude of the kids passing through the 4-H program.

Good kids doing good things.

They work hard to bring a project to the fair. They work very hard to see their efforts come to fruition.

Hard work with a goal in mind.

But when they show up at the fair full of a good healthy competitive drive, they also show up knowing there are going to be others who need their help.

Older kids are constantly reaching out and helping those younger.

More experienced showmen and women don’t even hesitate to teach the “tricks” of the ring to those with less arena savvy — even at the expense of giving the “competition” a potential edge.

They work in the barns as a unit — all for one, and one for all. Then in the arena or at the judging tables, they are on their own. Hoping to shine a little brighter than the next competitor, but helping those before or after to be the best they can as well.

The decency of these kids — covered in dust and muck, and hauling critters big and small from point to point with incredible confidence — is simply a inspiration.

They muck out their own barn stalls and clean their own animals, then turn around and start all over again while helping someone who just isn’t managing quite as well.

Their projects whether in the ring or displayed in the exhibit halls are the work of their hands — the result of planning and effort.

These are kids who not only know where their food comes from, but also show visitors — perhaps a little naive — that meat and poultry doesn’t just appear wrapped in cellophane on molded Styrofoam trays.

Food is raised on farms — and respected. Milk, meat, vegetables, and fruit are all the results of hard, hard work by individuals and families who often have been “at the plow” for generations and who often have also been generational 4-Hers.

Club members, Club leaders. Program organizers.

I go to the fairs every year, and every year walk away once again inspired by these people — but especially by the kids.

They make me smile.

4-H kids at the fair give me a bit more confidence in the future.

They offer promise to our community, state, and nation.

That reassure me that when we old folks are left scratching our heads and wondering what the heck is going on in the world today, there are a huge number of kids out there who know what’s going on, will be able to take over and lead in the future, and who will pass on their knowledge and ability to those coming up a few rungs down the ladder.

Gosh, I love the county fair.

It is on this stage that I see real hope for the future.