T o sit in the bleachers outside the 4-H Livestock Arena on the Adams County Fairgrounds late afternoon on July 15 was to be awash in the joyful noise of young life and high spirits.
The bawling of calves, the bleating of lambs and goats, grunts from the hogs and clucks from the chickens ran together with the high, excited voices of small children and the lower tones of their parents offering instructions on what they should do when it was their turn in the show ring.
This midsummer din arose from the second Adams County 4-H Clover Kids Livestock Exhibition Show.
Pre-4-H “Clover Kids” ages 5-7 brought around 40 of their animals and birds into the arena for a special event showcasing them and their work.
One hundred or more of their parents, grandparents, siblings and friends watched from the stands, occasionally giving a wave of encouragement to the “littles” in the ring.
Crystal Fangmeier of rural Hebron, a former longtime Nebraska Extension 4-H assistant in Thayer and Nuckolls counties, served as emcee for the event.
She held a microphone for each of the young exhibitors to speak or not speak into as they saw fit, introducing themselves and answering a few basic questions about their projects.
“You can use your outside schoolyard voice,” Fangmeier told the children, encouraging them to speak up. “We want Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad to hear you.”
Some of the children were more talkative than others, and some had more information to share. Some looked down more than they looked up.
After the experience of showing her rabbit in the exhibition, Clover Kid Viola Ishii of the Rural Ranchers 4-H Club said she wanted nothing further to do with amplifying her voice through the mic.
“It’s too loud,” she said.
Along the way, Fangmeier gently encouraged the children, asking them leading questions and giving them tips on the best way to hold or control their animals.
When young Ellie Wolfe, also of the Rural Ranchers, told Fangmeier about her rabbit and how she feeds and waters it, Fangmeier wondered how often such chores get done.
“Do you do that every day or just when you feel like it?” she asked.
“Every day,” Ellie said emphatically.
Project species in Thursday’s exhibition show included rabbits, poultry, bucket calves, halter lambs, lead goats and swine.
When the calves proved a little hard to handle, Fangmeier encouraged the youngsters to keep working on their control techniques.
“When you’re working with any of the larger animals, if you have confidence and you know what you’re doing they’re going to behave better,” she said. “You’re in charge.”
Many Clover Kids are involved in 4-H clubs and activities, but children can’t be official 4-H’ers until they turn 8 years old. The Clover Kid program, in which members receive participation ribbons but don’t truly have their projects judged, gives the children a chance to whet their appetites for experiences and challenges to come.
Nebraska Extension staff members Lynn DeVries and Julie Ochsner served as superintendents for Thursday’s Clover Kids Livestock Exhibition Show.
The first such show was in 2019.
In an interview recently, Beth Janning, Nebraska Extension youth development educator for Adams and Webster counties, said the idea behind the exhibition is to give the youngsters their own time to shine, without waiting for hours for their turn and outside the shadow of their older brothers, sisters and friends.
“This is a special show just for them,” she said.
The fair continues full steam through Sunday, with the livestock premium auction wrapping up events on Monday morning.
Highlights of the 4-H agenda for Friday include the market broiler, poultry and beef shows starting 8 a.m.
Saturday brings the horse show and goat show, both at 8 a.m., and the dog show starting at 9.
Sunday’s schedule includes the Junior Leaders pancake breakfast at 8 a.m., the Junior Leaders church service at 9, and the round-robin livestock showmanship contest at noon, followed by livestock judging in the show arena.
A 4-H youth dance is planned for 9:30 p.m. Sunday in the Community Service Building.