Jaden Nienhueser, 16, has a busy week before the Adams County Fairfest.
The 4-H’er has 35 entries, ranging from floral culture, horticulture, food preservation, rabbits and chickens.
“The night before that Sunday is horrifying because it’s just busy trying to get everything all together,” Nienhueser said. “Because I show quite a few flowers, it’s like waking up at 4 in the morning (the day of static entry).”
Nienhueser’s commitment to his entries is so strong, he said he has stood over his flowers with an umbrella during hail storms.
But Nienhueser isn’t the only one rushing to get their work done. Across the county, other 4-H’ers also are finishing their projects and cleaning livestock before entry.
The parade is this Saturday, but kids already competed in the fashion show Wednesday. Clothing construction, food revue and FCS judging contests were Friday. Static entries are due Monday, and livestock entry is Tuesday.
That leaves little time left for the Rural Ranchers, a group of 4-H’ers raising animals at the only farm in town.
“The week before is always busy,” said Dave Berens, 4-H leader. “It’s really busy in the fact that kids realize they don’t have too many days left.”
Berens has been helping with Rural Ranchers for 29 years. He said kids now come in every day before the fair to clean cattle, shave goats, shear sheep and take care of every other animal. The group is entering over 200 animals in all categories except swine, Berens said. About 80 kids from Rural Ranchers are competing.
This Saturday, the group will prep all the sheep. This includes a rough shear, washing, drying and shearing again. Berens said the older, more experienced kids and parents help teach newer 4-H’ers.
“Everyone is doing their part,” said Barrett McIntyre, one of the Rural Ranchers who helped mow grass on the property.
Kids like Brianna Gilmore, 17, and Katie Cecrle, 16, are in Rural Ranchers and entering several static pieces, in addition to their livestock.
Gilmore and Cecrle, both of Hastings, said they are still working on some of their art projects. While they are confident all their projects will be done by the time entry is due, they admit to some procrastination.
“For the most part, I think every 4-H’er can say that they procrastinate to the last minute,” Cecrle said.
For some projects, like baked goods, finishing your work at the last minute is unavoidable. But when it comes to livestock, the kids have to put in work early so the animals are comfortable with them during the show.
“There’s a lot of grooming and just getting your animal to know you. You have to bond with your animal so they will cooperate,” Cecrle said.
Bailey Johnson, 18, also is entering several competitions, including clothing construction, home environment, cattle and sheep. She said she is mostly ready to enter her work and just has to put the finishing touches on it.
“It can be overwhelming, but the outcome is worth it,” Johnson said.
Johnson, of Hastings, said she has been competing since she was young and keeps doing it because she finds that raising livestock or finishing a project help her grow personally.
“With your cattle, you start with a wild animal and then it becomes your friend. Or your sewing project, you start with a piece of fabric and then you have a jacket. It’s amazing to watch the process of it all,” Johnson said.
Berens said that the whole experience is a learning opportunity for kids. It teaches kids responsibility through all the work that needs to be done.
“We wanted to teach kids about space, opportunity and responsibility through animals,” he said. “They’re playing, they’re learning.”
While the kids are getting ready to move their entries to the fairgrounds, the fairgrounds are getting ready to take them. Beth Janning, 4-H youth development extension educator, has been working to get the area ready and said they, too, are almost done.
“So far, I think things are going well, and we’re excited to get the critters on the fairgrounds,” Janning said.
Janning said the fairgrounds have received a few walk-throughs to ensure everything is in order and the volunteers are ready to receive the entries. Families bringing livestock are coming in Friday to make sure their pens are ready.
“There’s always little hiccups, and there’s always things you have to work through, but as long as everyone stays calm and keeps the bigger picture that this is a youth experience, things go well,” Janning said.
Gilmore and Cecrle are competing against each other in a few competitions, but said they help each other. They are close friends and push each other to work harder and produce a better entry.
Even for kids who aren’t as close, the static and livestock competitions at Fairfest put kids together on a common ground.
“There’s competition among all of us, but I would say we’re all — even if we’re not the closest friends — we’re all friends together in this little community that we have,” Johnson said.
Berens said that all money paid for Rural Ranchers’ entries at the 4-H livestock premium auction goes back into the Rural Ranchers program. The kids keep only their ribbon premium.