By CASSIE ANDERSON

Just because schools are taking a break for the Hancock County Fair does not mean that learning stops for area youth. Youth participating in junior fair activities during fair week or prior in their sponsoring organizations are learning vital life skills.

All year long 4-H, FFA, school groups, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Camp Fire USA youth learn skills that are preparing them for future relationships, the workforce, and life in general. The Junior Fair program provides opportunities to highlight and practice these skills.

So how does riding a horse, showing a chicken, or decorating a club booth teach life skills? Ask a Junior Fair member about their experiences at the fair and you might be surprised.

A youth with a horse project might tell you about patience and dedication when learning to ride or training a horse to do a specific task. He or she could also share a life lesson of determination by getting back on the horse after a fall.

A member with a poultry project might regale you with a story about learning how to bathe a chicken for the first time. They have also learned about being responsible for raising an animal from the time it is only a few days old, and how to keep records about the inputs and outputs of the project to determine if they have made a profit.

In the Youth Building, groups of youth and adults worked together to design and implement a display for their club or troop. A successful fair booth teaches youth to collaborate with each other, communicate effectively to their teammates, and follow through on a plan of action.

The Hancock County Junior Fair is a great venue for all these skills to be practiced. Youth can demonstrate the efforts of their work in a variety of competitions hosted during the fair.

Learning how to work toward your personal best and how to win and lose gracefully are skills that youth need to master to be a good peer and to do well in the workplace in the future. Junior Fair is a safe, supportive environment for youth to practice friendly competition and sportsmanship.

Earning a first-place ribbon in a class is positive recognition for a job well done. Not placing may encourage youth to work even harder the next year to do better.

Throughout this year’s fair, over 1,500 examples of the positive youth development accomplished through Junior Fair programs will be on exhibit in the Youth Building, Education Building, the show arenas and the animal barns. This could not be accomplished without the support of hundreds of volunteers, parents, teachers, local businesses, community members, and Junior and Senior Fair board members.

Hancock County is fortunate to have a wide variety of youth-serving organizations, and the county fair is a gathering place for several. What better way to learn about youth organizations for your child than by seeing them in action?

If you have not made it to the fair yet this year, I encourage you to take a trip out there and support your local youth. Information on how to get involved in Junior Fair organizations is available in the Youth Building displays.

The fair runs through Monday, Sept. 3.

Anderson is the Extension educator for 4-H youth development at the Ohio State University Extension for Hancock County.

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