SHERIDAN – When we visualize a county fair, we often think of showing cattle, horses or small animals. Although a big part of the fair, static projects are the foundation of 4-H.
The organization was founded in 1902 in Clark County, Ohio with static projects. The club involved showcasing home skills like mending clothes and storing food. It also meant being able to grow fruits and vegetables. The club is based on agriculture, with animal husbandry coming later in its development.
“As we look to the future with 4-H, we need to think about the skills we’re teaching our kids that are going to lend themselves to that sustainability and independence,” said University of Wyoming extension educator Emily Swinyer. for 4-H youth development.
In today’s society, many have noted that basic life skills are lacking. That’s where 4-H comes in, where mentors and leaders like Swinyer create generations of respectable, hardworking individuals with life skills that allow them to be independent.
Today, members can create a wide variety of projects.
“Static projects are basically anything that’s not alive,” Swinyer said. “These are things that kids have created throughout the year and the spectrum of interest levels is kind of endless.”
In total, there are 60 project areas in the state, ranging from aerospace to woodworking to cake decorating. Any project that does not fit into any of these categories is placed in the “self-determined” category. This year quilting will have its own division due to the great work that is put into the craftsmanship. Quilting has very different characteristics from weaving, crocheting and knitting, making it unfair to place it on the same playing field as the textile arts, according to event organizers.
“It’s hard to compare the two,” Swinyer said. “It’s a totally different skill set and really they don’t look alike. At the state level, there is no needle loom. They lump it all together in self-determination.
4-H Junior TK Enders not only aims to submit a variety of photos as well as his visual arts and leathercraft projects, but he is also completing a civic engagement project. He named his plan “Thank a Veteran” and plans to make keychains, cards and flags from melted pearls to travel to Sheridan Veterans Affairs Medical Center for long-term patients. In addition to making a variety of gifts for the VA, he will also give a keychain to each veteran he thanks in public.
In total, Enders has been in 4-H for three years.
Intermediate Chloie Wardell has been part of 4-H for five years, exhibiting projects in quilting, veterinary science, photography, market beef, gardening, baking and visual arts.
For her veterinary science project, she is making a billboard detailing embryo transfer in cattle. In previous years, she was able to hunt a cow and float her horse’s teeth.
She also plans to make sourdough brownies and bread for baking and grow cucumbers, flowers and potatoes for gardening.
“It’s just a lot of fun for me, and I plan on going for a while,” Wardell said.
Senior Keira Benedict has been in 4-H for nine years and comes in every year with several armfuls of projects. This year, she plans to be part of food and nutrition, cake decorating, health, visual arts and woodworking.
In the area of food and nutrition, Benoît will make angel food cake and transform an old nut cookie recipe into a healthy heart project. She will make two cakes, one using a mixed technique – icing and fondant – and the other using icing. For her health project, she is completing a poster board on Rett Syndrome, and for visual arts, she is making a pair of feather earrings. Finally, for the work of wood, it carries out a cutting. She burns the edges of the images and places them on the wood to make a sort of collage. She made several for her friends; however, she would like one herself.
After nine years, Benedict continues to invest herself in everything she does in 4-H.
“I saw my two brothers go through 4-H,” Benedict said. “I saw how hard they worked and followed their work ethic.”
All 4-H members are placed in a separate category based on their age, from Junior to Senior, allowing for fair judging at all levels.
Overall, all the work that goes into the different projects depends on the category. Members who work on quilts like Wardell, for example, spend years stitching pieces of fabric together to create a dazzling display. Many projects, such as gardening and horticulture, require a lot of prep work. With gardening, members can’t just buy or print a picture and stick it on a bulletin board. They must spend months growing their own vegetables or making a little fairy garden. This also applies to entomology in the sense that members must collect a variety of insects to showcase.
Although the focus is on the county fair being the end product, Swinyer emphasized the real meaning of creating these projects – the learning process. Members can take on their own projects, failing along the way to learn how to succeed. “It teaches courage and perseverance, so it’s not you against the other kids out there,” Swinyer said. “You present the product of yourself versus yourself.”
With this mindset, Sheridan County entrants have excelled, bringing a trailer full of static projects each year. Each year, Swinyer and his team showcase all of the projects that have earned a premium purple or blue ribbon or higher at the State Fair in Douglas, Wyoming. Swinyer likes to be able to compare local work with that of other counties.
“Static displays are the unsung hero of 4-H,” Swinyer said. “They are what started it, and the skill is what drives it. People are always thinking about breeding projects, but it wouldn’t necessarily be a county fair without static projects.”
Marly Graham is an intern at The Sheridan Press.