4-H members will still learn even if annual event is cancelled

Luke Mathiesen bought his cattle in September. He started the process of growing and working with them every day with plans to show them at the Washington County Fair. 

How 4-H members will participate in the Washington County Fair, should it move forward, is undecided, though they are still preparing their animals and other projects, according to Extension Educator Tracy Behnken. 

Behnken said they could possibly know more by mid-June. Earlier this month, Fair Board President Jason Cloud was optimistic the fair would still be held July 24-29 despite current coronavirus restrictions.

"The Washington County Fair Board makes the decisions about the fair and Nebraska Extension will make the decision on how 4-H will be involved in the fair based on Gov. Ricketts and the local health guidelines," Behnken said. 

For Mathiesen, raising the cattle must go on.

"With everything going on with the coronavirus, we are still pushing forward," he said. "I certainly would have done this no matter what happens, whether we had known about it or not, because this is quite possibly my last year showing. It stinks that this is going on, but we are going to do the best we can and prepare until we know for sure what will happen."

Mathiesen said his family has always looked at it as the show cows are going to be nice cows even if they don't get to show them. He's working with a female show heifer and a steer which he plans to sell on auction at the fair.  

Behnken said showing animals at the fair can be a highlight, but it isn't the only thing 4-H members, who participate in a variety of events and activities, learn in preparing for the fair.  

5.26.20 4-H animal plans for WC Fair 2.jpg

Judge Vaughn Sievers of Battle Creek critiques each animal as Noel Wachter, Sarah Rhea and Gabriel Wachter look on during the 2019 Washington County Fair sheep show.

"They are still learning practical skills such as fitness, meal preparation, rocket building, clothing care, animal and human nutrition, first aid, woodworking, gardening, and many other skills through the more than 150 projects available," she said. "Life skills are a part of every 4-H project. A life skill can be defined as 'an ability that is necessary and useful throughout life.' These skills include the thinking, doing and feeling abilities used in many situations. The life skills learned through 4-H are those which contribute positively to productive, healthy and competent lives."

Behnken said the Extension will continue to monitor the coronavirus situation.

"There will be careful review of guidelines as 4-H proceeds with each scheduled event. Regardless, the Washington County 4-H staff will work hard to provide positive youth development opportunities for our 4-H members to participate, whether it be the face-to-face option while following social distancing with limitations or solely virtual," she said.

Alicia Rhea assists with the Lucky Clover 4-H club.

"It's been kind of hard to know what to do, if we should continue to prepare or if it is going to happen," Rhea said. "We encouraged our 4-H club to proceed as if it's going to happen because the last thing you want is not to have anything ready." 

Rhea said now is the time after school is over that students start on their static exhibits, but livestock is year round. Her kids have been working with their sheep and cattle for awhile. She said a lot members have been working with the animals for months already.

"It's a labor of love," she said. "It's a daily work in progress, and if we don't have a fair, it will be unfortunate because all of that time would be lost for them." 

Rhea said many of the animals will need to go to market regardless of whether there is a fair or not.

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