4-H booth set-up day

The Medina County Fair opens on Monday, Aug. 1st.  Yesterday, Saturday, was the day that hundreds of young 4-H members and their advisers swarmed the fairgrounds on booth set-up day.  In addition to the animals being brought to the fairgrounds to be housed all week for fair goers to see and 4-H members to show in highly competitive judging, 4-H clubs set up booths in the 4-H barn to showcase members projects that were worked on all year.  The highlight of booth set-up day is the first opportunity to purchase a milkshake from the 4-H milkshake booth.  Hand-dipped ice cream with many flavors to choose from is mixed with milk by 4-H volunteers who run the milkshake booth as a business.  They organize early in the year, elect officers, delegate responsibilities and start recruiting volunteers to work the booth during the week-long fair.  It is easily the busiest booth at the fair.

For those of you who may not be aware of 4-H, the organization was founded in Ohio by A.B. Graham as a supplement to the public education system.  The motto of 4-H is,  “To Make the Best, Better”  . Sounds like a lean principle to me.

Over the years, as my children were growing up, my wife and I became 4-H advisors.  My wife, Lisa, started a club for home-schoolers and she was recognized at the State level for recruitment.

Our daughters, Sara and Nina both were recognized as Outstanding Court members – two years each!

This was due to their hard work and efforts with their annual projects in sewing, cooking, small animals, cake decorating and others.  My wife’s attention to helping teach my kids and other club members truly helped make the best, better.

My favorite time of the year was booth set-up.  I became the un-official champion of this annual project.  Each year, the fair committee chooses an overall theme for the fair, then 4-H clubs design booths around that theme to display members projects.  The club advisors work with the club members to choose a theme for the booth that reflects the overall theme for the fair.  The kids then share ideas on how best to design the booth and the planning for booth set-up day begins in earnest.  With a plan in mind, the kids work with adults to acquire the materials needed for the booth construction (Thanks to A-Kobak Container for donating the cardboard) and on Saturday morning, Mr. Pettry and several of the senior club members would gather to construct the frame of the booth.  Once the frame was up, Mrs. Pettry and the other advisors would work with the kids to decorate the booth.  Each booth would then be judged by a committee of 4-H officials looking for specific criteria and would award Outstanding Booth status to those booths who met the criteria for the booth presentation.  

Here are a few of my favorite Homespun Heroes’ outstanding Booth award winners from the turn of the century. 

The Y4H booth was centered around the Y2K theme and the Scrabble booth was created to highlight the fundamentals of 4-H.  (You’ll hear more about my use of Scrabble in future posts.)

So the purpose of this post?  Values obviously go beyond the workplace and greatly influence our lives.  When the values of the organizations we belong to align with our personal values, great satisfaction occurs.  4-H is a terrific organization for our children to learn leadership lessons and other life skills.  

Perhaps the greatest display of aligned values occurred in 2001 in the wake of a tragic accident at the start of the fair, on booth set-up day.  A steam engine explosion killed five people and injured at least 35 others.  It was a devastating event for the families of the victims and sent a shock wave throughout the community.  What happened later on during the week at the livestock auctions still brings a tear to my eye.  The kids came up with a plan to donate half of their earnings from the auction of their livestock to a fund that was set up for the families of the victims.  It was amazing to watch as each kid brought their animal into the auction area and announced that they would donate half of their earnings to the fund.  The beautiful part of the story is that the community responded with record prices for the animals, thus ensuring that the kids were able to earn as much as they had in the past, however, the families of the victims also received over $20,000 from the 4-H kidsThis is what aligned values looks and feels like.

Our family has greatly benefitted from 4-H and the Medina County fair.  Working on the projects throughout the year, culminating with the display of projects during fair week for all fair goers to admire. 

In a future post, I’ll write about the lessons in visual management that my father taught me when he was running his church’s food booth at the fair.

If you haven’t already visited your local county fair, please do yourself a favor and go – not for the rides and gaming attractions – but for the joy of watching kids show their animals, display their projects, or make a milkshake.

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