It’s almost time for the annual Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair. That means fair-goers and competitors will try new things — say, showing a Dairy Heifer — strive for excellence and have fun appreciating others’ hard work.
After all, some 4-H ambassadors and junior ambassadors have been preparing for the 2018 fair since last year’s edition wrapped up in August.
Ryan Schooley, Mary Fisher and Kylee Passman are ready to show the judges that they embraced last years’ critique, worked hard to refine their crafts and are ready to go for blue — and then for class champion and grand champion, of course.
And don’t think the fair is just livestock and tractor pulls.
“It’s a whole lot more,” said Schooley, a 17-year-old rising senior at Winters Mill High School. “You enter animals and then in the big Red Building there are all sorts of things” like garden products, floral arrangements, tractor refurbishments, photography, woodworking, sewing, art and crafts, baked goods and more.
“judges) look for so much detail,” Passman said. “Last year I think I was judged by a college photography professor, or something crazy like that.”
That professor made sure Passman’s photos adhered to various principles, like the rule of thirds, it’s “so much put into one picture,” she said. “One picture is 1,000 words, they want 2,000 words out of this one picture.”
Passman said she’s learned from it, though, like figuring out that the smaller a picture is, within regulation, the less pixelated it will appear. Judges in turn give better reviews, she said.
While this fair highlights the artistic work of Carroll’s youth, it also embraces those children, adolescents and young adults that are passionate animal lovers.
Twelve-year-old Mary Fisher, who attends St. John’s Catholic School in Westminster, is showing chickens in this year’s fair. She’ll show off her Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock and two Easter Eggers. She has five more chickens at home, but they’re too young for competition.
She cares for chickens throughout the year to prepare them for the fair — and because she loves animals. Routinely, she has to “make sure they’re clean, clean the coop, collect eggs, make sure they’re not sick, get them tested when they’re supposed to,” Fisher said.
But before the fair, “before showmanship,” Fisher said, she cleans their feet, beaks and feathers.
Schooley will also show chickens at the fair. She’s done so for six years, raising them from chicks to hens and roosters in her backyard coop — which she built herself, with a little help from her dad, after a fox attacked.
She’s enrolled in CASE — Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education — classes at Winters Mill. Every year she brings in her chickens as educational tools when neighboring Cranberry Station Elementary School visits to learn about animals.
But while she’s experienced when it comes to raising and showing chickens, the 2018 fair has provided a venue for her to show off what she’s learned about cattle. Schooley plans to show a Dairy Heifer — a female calf. It’s uncharted terrain for her.
“I didn’t really know too much about [Heifers] or cows in general before I started this,” she said. “I had to do a lot of research on my own time, just trying to learn how they work, how to show, all sorts of things.”
Schooley also goes to a nearby farm at least three times per week to work with the animals. Though she’s still green when it comes to the “show” part of working with cattle.
“There’s things that you have to wear in a show ring, there’s things that you want to show off on the Heifer and then there’s different things you have to bring to the show with you,” she said. “First off, you want to make sure they’re clean and they look nice, and then you want to have their head up high, you want them to be squared.”
Schooley and her 4-H peers have been learning and working all year. For her, it was learning about Heifers, shooting photos and taking care of her chickens. Fisher also cared for her chickens, but she also readied arts and crafts, “not like years in advance, but a couple months before,” she said.
Participants have worked hard to prepare. And the ambassadors will continue to work hard as fair-time arrives. They’ll tour fair-goers around the grounds, help the volunteer staff and more.
“This is something that we work all year for, and it’s something that we’re all passionate about, so we love to share it with the community,” Schooley said. “We love to keep it … it’s like a home basically for the entire county.”