CANTON ‒ A group of “fair kids” have made it their mission to teach area youth that 4-H is more than raising and showing animals.
4-H Ambassadors, made up of fair royalty and members of the Stark County Junior Fair Board, make rounds throughout the county talking to children who are eligible to join the youth development organization.
Annabelle Ehmer, 2021 Stark County Junior Fair Queen, said the group aims to educate others about 4-H opportunities. They focused on Stark third-graders, with first-year kids eligible for club membership.
Stark County 4-H: More than a market and livestock
Grace Steiner, 2021 Stark County Junior Fair sheep ambassador, said many people don’t know the details about the organization.
“What we’re seeing is (the kids) don’t know it’s not just market projects and livestock projects (at the fair),” said 2022 Stark County Teen Miss Agriculture USA Cheyenne Myers. “Annabelle (Ehmer) albums. Garrett (Kunz) sews. You can do anything you’re passionate about.”
According to the 4-H website, the organization was founded in the late 1800s to introduce new agricultural technology to communities. The club has evolved over the past 100 years and today focuses on issues ranging from global food security, climate change and sustainable energy to childhood obesity and food safety.
4-H aims to empower youth with the skills needed to become leaders by focusing on the four H’s: head, heart, hands and health.
Children and teens complete hands-on projects in areas such as health, science, agriculture, and civic engagement. The projects are then exhibited and may be judged at local and state fairs.
Myers said there are misconceptions about 4-H, including that if you take an animal to the fair, you have to sell it.
“It’s hard to lose an animal,” said 16-year-old RG Drage (Minerva) student. “But it shouldn’t happen.”
4-H isn’t just for students in rural areas, she added.
“There aren’t a lot of farming opportunities in Canton, but they can take something they’re passionate about (and turn it into a project),” Myers said.
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Emily Clawson did a self-determination project on beta fish.
“You can take dogs, cats, hamsters, rats and fish,” said the 2021 Stark County Junior Fair Queen runner-up. “If they don’t have projects for that animal, you can make your own.”
According to 2021 Stark County Junior Fair king Garret Kunz, self-determination projects, as well as non-animal projects, can be more affordable and easier to transport.
All projects submitted to the fair are scored and judged, said the 18-year-old Marlington High School student. The top projects will go to the state fair to compete against other winners across the state of Ohio.
Twelve-year-old Abbigale Cattrell is passionate about sheep.
As the Ohio runner-up for Little Miss Agriculture USA, the East Canton high school student is using her title to defend 4-H.
“I believe 4-H is important and teaches kids lifelong vocations to learn along with responsibility and hard work,” she said.
The organization gave him many different opportunities, including starring in commercials promoting their products to local dairy farmers.
“Everything that happens (at the fair) is because of sponsors and donors,” Ehmer, 19, said. “We want them to know that we appreciate them.”
The group also focused on showing appreciation to the processors who slaughtered the animals sold at the fair.
“Without them, the kids doing the market projects wouldn’t be able to sell their animals and put food on the table,” Steiner said.
4-H is a stepping stone to doing more
Denna Steiner, who helps lead 4-H Advocates, teaches 4-H members interview skills, responsibility, life skills, respect, appreciation, friendship, camaraderie, healthy competition and most importantly, how to give back.
“I don’t think people fully understand what these kids are doing,” he said. “She gets up at 4 a.m. to take care of the animals, go to work, study the Bible, volunteer at places and go to school.”
They care about their community and want to do what they can to make it a better place, he said.
After speaking with the Alliance Kiwanis club, they joined the clubs effort to collect the grain. 4-H Advocates collected 400 boxes for the food pantry.
“We got to tour (the food pantry) and see what they do there,” Kunz said. “One day we would like to go there and help.”
Both Grace Steiner and Clawson collect donations for area animal shelters.
Steiner and her sister donated nearly 200 bags of dog food to the Humane Society and collected wool to make blankets for shelter animals.
Clawson volunteers at Second Chance for Animals. He took a delivery driver and brought in about $200 worth of items.
As part of the Boys Scouts, Kunz helped clear forests and planted more than 100 trees.
Ehmer has donated items to Akron Children’s Hospital for years. She recently donated hundreds of crowns and foam swords to children at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland.
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Dakota Johnston, 17, volunteered for five days at Safety Town in Canton South. During this time, he helped youth learn about fire, pedestrian/traffic and water safety.
Manning the food booth at the fair at Canton South. He and other junior fair members spent hours preparing the stand, including building new freezers and coolers.
During this year’s fair, which runs through Sept. 5, the group is participating in a statewide competition to collect non-perishable food items for local food banks.
Visitors to this year’s fair are asked to bring items to help the trailer, which will be parked near the Junior Fair Building. They hope to collect 2.5 tons for local warehouses.
“It’s just amazing,” Deanna Steiner said. “These guys are always looking for ways to give back to those who give to them.”
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If you go
YES: Stark County Fair
WHERE: 305 Wertz Ave., Canton
WHEN: Today from 8 am to 9:30 pm until September 5. The fair closes at 19:00 on September 5.
COST: General admission $8. Free for children under 3 years old. The ticket does not include attractions. Check the website for discount days.
For more information, visit www.starkcountyfair.com