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Leah Street
Extension Educator - 4-H Youth Development, McLean County
University of Illinois Extension
1615 Commerce Parkway
Bloomington, IL 61704
Phone: 309-663-8306
FAX: 309-663-8270

McLean County 4-H Fair

McLean County 4-H Fair

Preparing for 4-H Youth Fair

"4-H fairs or shows are often the highlight of the 4-H year for many participants," said Dr. Lisa Diaz, 4-H State Program Leader. "From a youth development perspective, fairs allow 4-H members to display projects and to participate in educational experiences critiqued by an adult expert. Fairs provide a showcase for recognition of youth and allow an avenue for young people to practice the life skills of teamwork, cooperation, communication, sportsmanship, and club pride and unity."

Currently, 4-H members are working on a timeline to finish their 4-H projects. "The habit of seeing things through to the end most likely begins in childhood, so it's particularly important that 4-Hers set realistic goals and realistic completion dates," said Diaz. Research indicates that parental encouragement and role models are both highly significant factors affecting project completion.

Diaz encourages adult volunteers to help 4-H members obtain the materials and resources needed to complete 4-H projects. "Adults may answer questions, demonstrate skills, and offer guidance on project work," said Diaz, "but they should not do the work themselves! They can offer encouragement as young people prepare for conference judging and they can provide support and reflection as youth complete the judging experience." Diaz noted that praise, ribbons, and scholarships are all used in 4-H to motivate young people to reach their full potential, and incentives are significantly correlated with project completion.

4-H leaders are a valuable asset when assisting members in their fair preparations, Diaz stressed. "Volunteers are the link between the Extension office and the families," she said. "Fair superintendents, 4-H committee members, project leaders, and older youth enrolled in similar projects can also answer questions and help members prepare their exhibits."

Prior to the fair, many clubs conduct a meeting where projects that are going to be exhibited at the fair are brought in and a mock judging occurs. This allows members to practice the question and answer period of conference judging and provides adults with the opportunity to offer last minute suggestions for finalizing projects before the fair. Club members are also working together to prepare posters and displays, prepare for club competitions, confirming the clubs schedule for judging and fair work assignments. Club unity and pride is exhibited in these 'belonging' activities and in the display of the club name on t-shirts, exhibit tags, and press releases.

"Research shows that having fun, achieving goals, spending time with friends and teamwork are the highest rated motivators for participation in 4-H fair," Diaz concluded. "Fair participation is clearly an influential and important part of life for the young people who participate."