The Appalachian Fair finds people of all ages entering items for judging. Whether it be quilts, pickles, artwork, goats or cattle each entrant hopes for a blue ribbon. At this time of the year, many memories of 4-H and cattle showing at the fair come to my mind.
With four children enrolled in Washington County schools several years ago, our family was involved in many 4-H activities. Bread baking, public speaking, Share-the-Fun talent shows and showing cattle we tried it all. Each of these activities was a good learning experience and taught many skills and responsibility.
Back then, the 4-H met in the middle school homerooms. The meetings taught parliamentary procedure and gave opportunities for leadership roles. There was a team effort with each class trying to be the best.
Cooking skills were taught through bread baking and food demonstrations. Looking forward to a blue ribbon gave the students an incentive to do well as they entered their bread to be judged or did demonstrations at the fair.
Public speaking was another activity that was a great learning experience. Writing a speech, making notecards to help in the presentation and standing before peers to give the speech all gave the students confidence. They also had the opportunity to go to higher levels and give their speeches on a county level. Since communication skills are lacking in many young people today, perhaps we should give them more opportunities to participate in public speaking.
Share-the-Fun was the talent show for 4-H. This was always fun to watch and it gave students the chance to show what they could do to entertain. The talent show instilled in many students a appreciation of the arts and provided a start for students to continue a lifetime in the arts.
Cattle showing was the most involved and time-consuming project for our family. When our oldest son was in seventh grade he became interested in showing Shorthorn cattle. He and his dad made a trip to Virginia and purchased a Shorthorn they named Windy. This was a big investment and required much responsibility. The Shorthorn had to be groomed, fed and looked after. I must say that our son stepped up to the plate and took the job very seriously.
All went well until tragedy struck. Quite by accident, Windy caught her head in the barn and could not get loose and died. It was a very sad day for our family yet at the same time a learning experience for our son. Another heifer was purchased and soon it was show time at the fair. A younger brother got interested and we purchased a heifer for him as well.
Having the fair the same week school started complicated things, but somehow we managed to get everything to the fair on time and get to our teaching jobs as well. We even helped with the grooming in the evenings. Can you imagine teasing the hair of the cows tail and even using hairspray to keep it in place? Overall it was a good experience and much was learned in the process.
Besides showing cattle at the Appalachian Fair, there were other opportunities for our boys to show their cattle. The most involved one was the National Shorthorn show, which was in Nashville. Our whole family went all staying in one motel room. Of course we spent most of the time at the fairground and it was 90 degrees every day. Looking back, I wonder how we managed that, but we did and were glad to bring home a national ribbon.
Many of these 4-H and cattle showing activities did become family affairs, but they were wonderful ways to teach good skills and responsibility as well as bond the family together. I checked with some teacher friends of mine and found out that 4-H is still alive and well in Washington County. Some of the activities may have changed, but students still have many good activities to choose from.
The Appalachian Fair ended Saturday, but if you visit the fair next year, please take time to notice all the great activities the students of Washington County are now involved in.
Bonnie Simmerman of Jonesborough is a retired school teacher.