RBC I Trophies and purple ribbons are pretty. They also collect dust. However, standing in the championship finals is an awesome feeling.
Participants also learn a lot standing at the bottom of a class this year then fixing a few errors and coming back and earning the right to be first next year.
Ribbons awarded to a child who sits nervously with their 4-H project while a judge interviews them also builds self-esteem and the ability to speak in public. The real lessons in 4-H have nothing to do with the color of the ribbon; it’s about remembering the pride of work created through the project preparation.
Getting up in the morning to feed a show pig, clean stalls and train their projects is not a one-day event. For many, the 4-H year started last fall with 4-H meetings, planning and finally starting the new project.
During the year these boys and girls will attend feeder shows, Wholesome Quality Meat assurance training and numerous practice sessions until they finally get to exhibit their projects.
Youth in the horse, shooting sports and general projects have already exhibited their projects. They have experienced the Rio Blanco County Fair highs and lows as their exhibits were judged—they may forget the color of the ribbons, but they will carry the lessons from the 4-H program.
The Rio Blanco 4-H Fair evokes memories of carnivals, cotton candy and cute kids for many visitors. Most of them don’t see what gets spent in getting the kids, animals and projects ready for a fair. For the youth seeing firsthand the life lessons of not winning the champion ribbon, it can be truly heartbreaking with only one winner.
It’s even more difficult to see the life lessons at work before the county fair. There are numerous hours of practice and unending patience to carve out and stamp the leather craft project. There are many practice cakes the family consumes getting ready for the cake decorating contest. The poise, polish and presence on stage is a bit more obvious in fashion revue, but the sewing project needs a poster showing “perseverance, desire and a sense of style needed.”
Someone once asked me how many kids I have in 4-H.
I was proud to say three, then thought a little more and replied, no, we have over 200 in the Rio Blanco County program along with some 50 4-H leaders not to mention all the parents and volunteers working to make the program a success.
So next time you see an 80-pound girl leading her 1,300-pound 4-H steer into the showmanship ring at the Rio Blanco County Fair, the gentle giant patiently following her like a pet dog might, remember it’s not about winning the Champion Market Steer trophy, it’s about making champion youths.