Jackson County 4-H’ers check in projects for 2023 fair

BROWNSTOWN — It’s that time of year again for local 4-H’ers to showcase their creative talents and skills by entering projects to exhibit at the Jackson County Fair, which opens it seven-day run Sunday.

On Wednesday, Jackson County 4-H’ers made their way to the fairgrounds in Brownstown to check in the projects they’ve been working on for some time.

Josey Hardy, 10, of Seymour went there to enter several projects, including genealogy, entomology, cake decorating and photography.

“My favorite project was entomology because I got to find bugs,” she said. “This is my second year, and we had to find 20 bugs and put them in a box in order of the category they were in.”

She was at the check-in with her mother, Jennifer Hardy, to turn in a pink cake she had decorated.

“For photography, I used pictures from Muscatatuck (National) Wildlife Refuge because I’ve always liked to go there,” Hardy said. “The project that took me the longest was genealogy, and I had to make three binders for that.”

She is a member of the Blue Ribbon Winners 4-H Club in Seymour, and her favorite part of 4-H is working on the projects, she said.

Jennifer said she thinks 4-H helps kids learn life skills, organization and time management. They are still working on the time management part, she said.

Judy Smith was one of the judges for the cake decorating and gift wrapping projects.

“I‘ve done this for at least 20 years but in different areas,” she said. “I was a 10-year member in 4-H, and I’ve been a 4-H leader in Jefferson County for many years.”

Smith said she uses a checklist to see if the projects have met the requirements, and there are certain things the 4-H members are supposed to do as they get older and do more advanced projects.

“What I enjoy most about being a judge is the back and forth with the 4-H’er,” she said. “I always let them tell me why they took a certain project, what it’s about and how hard it was for them.”

Smith said being in 4-H is a way for kids to figure out they can be friends with a lot of other kids in the county, get to know them and interact with them.

“It helps them develop things they need to learn for everyday life,” she said.

Elizabeth Rotert, 9, who is in her first year of regular 4-H, also was at the fairgrounds turning in her projects. She was there with her 6-year-old brother, Henry, and their mother, Tiffany Rotert.

“The projects I did were gift wrapping, poultry, sewing and I made a pillow,” Elizabeth said. “I think the project I had the most fun making was my skirt.”

She took an interest in sewing because her grandma always used to sew and showed her how to sew a string bag and she enjoyed it, so she wanted to try sewing in 4-H.

Henry is in Mini 4-H and was there to enter his Pokemon Lego project. His favorite Pokemon character is Charmander, he said.

In a booth right outside of the 4-H Building at the fairgrounds were Junior Leaders members Evan Abbott, 15, and Alexis Richart, 15, manning an information booth. They were handing out maps and programs containing the daily 4-H activities.

Abbott said if people want to know where to check their projects in or where the line starts or other information, that’s what they were there for.

Curry Klakamp, 7, of Seymour was at the fairgrounds with his parents, Jeff and Melanie Klakamp.

A Cortland Crushers Mini-4-H member, Curry had just checked in a couple of projects for scrapbooking and Indiana wildlife.

“I wanted to make a scrapbook of my pets, so I have two dogs (both chocolate Labs), two hermit crabs, five toads and an aquarium of fish and snails,” Curry said. “I’m just about to get a bearded dragon, too.”

He drew a fox and a garter snake for his Indiana wildlife poster and thinks going to the fair is fun.

At Brownstown Elementary School, 4-H’ers turned in food-related projects. One of those members was nine-year 4-H member Drew Kerkhof.

“Today, I’m turning in my foods and foods preservation projects, and I also take sheep, photography and arts and crafts,” he said. “For foods, I made a strawberry and cheese Danish, and then I made strawberry rhubarb jam for my preservation.”

Kerkhof said his favorite part of 4-H is definitely the experience of getting to grow in his leadership.

“I’m learning a lot of new things while doing the books and the projects and learning life skills that I think will guide me for the rest of my life,” he said. “Like food especially, I like to learn how the ingredients work together and how your body works with the food.”

Heather VonDielingen, the county’s 4-H youth development educator, said the check-in process was going really well Wednesday afternoon thanks to the numerous adult volunteers helping.

“The adults help train the Junior Leader volunteers, which is a youth development program for grades 7 through 12,” she said. “They provide support for the 4-H clubs during fair week, and they help with project check-in and judging and help get everything organized.”

She said Junior Leaders meets monthly throughout the year and she believes it’s a great organization, and working with them is one of her favorite things she enjoys about her job.