By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
It’s not all about the food or the animals or the rides at the Hancock County Fair. This year, it’s also about fitness, thanks to the Hancock County 4-H program.
One way fairgoers will be encouraged to think about a healthy lifestyle and moving more is through the use of a blender bike, said Cassie Anderson, extension educator/county director, 4-H youth development with OSU Extension Hancock County.
The bright green stationary bike is fitted with a blender on the front fender, along with a customized front wheel cover adorned with the 4-H logo. The blender is powered entirely by the rider and will be whirling up tasty, yogurt-based smoothies throughout the fair.
“People will have an opportunity to hop on the bike and make the blender go,” she said. “It depends on your ingredients, how much you have to pedal. I think it’s going to be fun.”
It’s also a new approach to getting people thinking about ways to be active and to make healthy choices.
“So while it’s eye-catching and it gets people’s attention, it’s also a great way to start that conversation of making those low-sugar choices for beverages,” she said.
4-H will partner with Hancock Public Health from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday in the new Old Mill Stream Centre.
“They’re going to be having a health fair with a series of activities, so we’re partnering with them to be one of the stations,” Anderson said.
On Friday, the bike will be in the Grange Building, also from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., while Saturday’s location will be in the Youth Building from 10 a.m. to noon.
Josh Becasen, a Bluffton University dietetic intern with the Ohio State University Extension of Hancock County, will be supervising the station.
The blender bike is a program by Ohio 4-H’s Healthy Lifestyle Team, said Anderson, and it applies to the “H” in 4-H that represents “health.”
According to research, said Anderson, it’s recommended that youth get 60 minutes of physical activity a day.
“Here in our smaller communities, a lot of the kids, especially your middle-schoolers and up, they’re in sports so we probably have a higher percentage. But on average across the nation, only about 25 percent of the population’s adolescents are getting that hour’s worth of activity every day,” she said.
Any activity will do, she said, from running around the playground to riding a bike.
While taking a spin on the blender bike will not be enough to count for 60 minutes of activity, it will hopefully get people thinking about the number of calories they’re consuming in comparison to the number of calories they’re burning.
“We know the majority of folks in the nation take more calories in than they put back out, so that leads to fat being stored. And we know that leads to diseases like diabetes and heart disease,” said Anderson. “One of the things that we’re really focusing on this year as part of our programming is just ways to encourage folks not to make impossible decisions, just to make smart decisions.”
The blender bike travels all over the state and will be heading to the Hardin County Fair next week.
The Clover Health Challenge is another program 4-H is collaborating with the health department on at the fair. Anderson said there will be various signs posted along the fair’s midway offering fun tips on ways to make smarter choices.
“It’s all about choices. ‘Everything in moderation’, I always say. And for most of us, if we can get into that line of moderation, you can enjoy the corn dog,” she said.
Anderson figured out that by walking through all of the buildings and barns at the fairgrounds, visitors will trek about 1¼ miles — enough for an average-sized person to burn about 100 calories.
“That’s part of the signage, just to provide that kind of insight,” she said. “But then it’s also fun things like, a corn dog is approximately 450 calories. Riding a horse will burn approximately the same amount of calories for an hour, so thinking about different ways that you can make those exchanges.”
Portion size is another factor in staying healthy.
“The fair is once-a-year kind of food for most of us,” Anderson said. “If you really like that elephant ear, have a friend or two there that you can share that with because, for most of us, that’s a pretty rich food.”
The point is not to make anyone feel guilty, though.
“This is just about thinking about how you can make good choices so that you’re feeling your best the week of the fair,” she said.
4-H aims to provide a variety of activities every year at the fair.
The annual duct tape challenge on Monday, for example, will get youth thinking about engineering concepts, she said, while another STEM challenge in the youth building will have visitors building a catapult out of spoons and rubber bands.
The fourth annual 4-H In Action Service Project begins at 1 p.m. Saturday in the youth building. Fairgoers are invited to help tie fleece blankets that will be donated to Project Linus.
But there will also be some slightly sillier activities like the Sleeping Beauty Contest. Throughout the fair, take a picture of someone sleeping in and around the animal barns and share it on the 4-H Facebook page.
“These kiddos just need their downtime,” said Anderson. “They’ve been up early and busy with everything that’s going on, so we just thought we’d have some fun with it.”
An album will be created after the fair and people will have a chance to vote for their favorite photo. The subject in the photo with the most reactions by the Sept. 21 deadline will win a prize.
With so many different activities, Anderson said there’s bound to be something to appeal to everyone.
“The Hancock County Ag Society has gone above and beyond to put together some really awesome family-friendly events. The Hancock County Fair is definitely a family-friendly place,” she said. “There’s a ton of cool stuff going on this year for kids, adults, seniors, everybody.”