4-H Members

Photo of 4-H member state fair

Fairs and Exhibits

Once involved in your 4-H project work, you will discover that there are opportunities for 4-H members to display items or animals that you have made, grown, or raised while learning about your project area. All counties provide an opportunity for members to place these items on exhibit and, in most cases, to be critiqued by adults who are trained in or specialize in that project area. This opportunity may be a 4-H "show day" or may be considered a 4-H "fair" and are generally held at specific times each year. While most are held during the summer months, some Extension units do hold some judging during the spring. Your local 4-H leader and local Extension office can provide you with information on when and where to bring your project exhibit.

Exhibits are generally critiqued or judged on the local level and members receive an award ribbon indicating the quality of the work done on the exhibit. A Blue Award indicates that your exhibit has met the standards of that exhibit -- almost everything on the project was done well. A Red Award means that some improvement is needed and a White Award means that much improvement is needed on your exhibit. With all of these ribbons, the member should learn something about what they should or need to do to their exhibit to improve their skills or the look of their exhibit, or the quality of animal that they selected to show.

Many counties offer what is known as "conference judging" for their members. This is a one-on-one discussion between the 4-H member and the judge of that project area. The judge will ask the member questions about their project. For example, the judge may ask: Why did you do it this way? What did you like about what you made? What would you do better the next time? A member learns from the conference with the judge, as well as improves his/her communication skills every time they exhibit.

Illinois State Fair Junior Department

Statewide, 4-H members can exhibit at the Illinois State Fair. The Junior Department offers Illinois 4-H members opportunities to bring their project exhibits to Springfield and take part in judging. The purpose of the Junior Department is to provide youth participants with the opportunity to accomplish the following objectives:

  • Participate in a quality educational experience through interaction with experts in a given project field.
  • Exhibit the products and skills of their project work.
  • Showcase the talents of individual participants and the 4-H programs.

In order to exhibit at the State Fair in the Junior Department, 4-H members must have been at least 10 years of age by September 1 the previous year. Members must also not have passed their 19th birthday by September 1. (For example, to exhibit at the 2012 Illinois State Fair, a 4-H member must be 10 to 18 years old on September 1, 2011.)

General 4-H Exhibits

4-H members have the opportunity to exhibit in numerous other project areas at the State Fair. For this area, exhibits must have been selected at a local 4-H show in order to be accepted for exhibit. Entries in these classes must be made by local Extension offices. Counties are assigned specific days for their 4-H members to bring exhibits to State Fair for conference judging, however some smaller project areas may be judged on only one or two specific days of the fair.

Local Extension offices are contacted in early January as to exhibit class requirements and assigned judging dates for the State Fair. (Please note that while these schedules are posted early in the year, in some extreme instances, changes may be made to schedules and exhibit classes due to state budget issues and/or changes made by State Fair management.)

Here are a few links to various forms that 4-H members may possibly need in order to exhibit certain projects in the General 4-H Exhibit category at the Illinois State Fair:

Junior Department Animal Shows

4-H members may exhibit in the areas of beef, sheep, swine, dairy, goats, poultry, rabbits, dogs, and/or horses. Exhibitors must be enrolled or registered in the specific animal species within the 4-H program in order to exhibit at the State Fair. Specific requirements regarding ownership (and/or leasing, in the case of horses and dogs) must be met by the exhibitor in order to exhibit at the State Fair.

Entries for Junior Animal Shows must be posted on an official State Fair entry form, available for download from the Illinois State Fair website. Horse entries are due postmarked no later than June 9. All other livestock entries are due to the State Fair office by July 1. Dog entries are due by August 1. There are specific entry fees that must be paid for each animal entered at the State Fair. Those fees must be paid with the initial entry form.

Exhibitors in beef, sheep, swine, dairy, goats, poultry, and horses are strongly recommended to complete the Quality Assurance & Ethics on-line certification before exhibiting their first time at the State Fair. The QA&E Certification website opens approximately February 1 of each year and will close on September 1, 2012.

The Superior Young Producer Scholarship Program is open to exhibitors in the following species: horses, beef, sheep, swine, and dairy. Members must be exhibiting animals at the State Fair in the species in which they wish to enter the SYP Scholarship contest. Exhibitors must be 14 years of age to participate. Scholarships are awarded based on knowledge and skills demonstrated in different contests within the species. These contests may include some or all of the following: live animal judging, skill-a-thon, management test, and showmanship. Registration for these contests is due July 1; entry forms are available on the State Fair website.

Here are several links to various sites and forms that 4-H members may possibly need in order to exhibit their animals in the Illinois State Fair Junior Department:


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