MARSHFIELD — To the average outsider, the Central Wisconsin State Fair, held Aug. 21-26, may look like it’s all about blue ribbons, food and carnival rides. But just beneath the surface, the annual event is teaching young people some valuable life lessons.
“The fair teaches youth a variety of new things, including learning about customer service, how to handle money, the culture of cooking. It allows members to develop new friendships and provides an opportunity for both adults and youth to interact through a hands-on educational environment,” said Andrea Galvan, who heads up the Snyder 4-H group from Wisconsin Rapids, which had many members attend the fair as volunteers helping serve food at the club’s food stand.
Galvan said many of the adults still continue to volunteer to help at the fair many years after their children have moved on from 4-H — and the more hands, the better.
As always, Snyder 4-H continues to make their own pies for the event. Just before the event, 50 club volunteers of all ages worked together to make 148 pies. Especially impressive is that this teamwork allowed the club to make all their pies in only 2½ hours.
Bob and Kati Hartwig said the fair has taught their young children all about sportsmanship, responsibility, commitment, teamwork and accountability, and it has given them the knowledge that comes with raising an animal.
The Hartwigs said their children already are learning about the values and responsibilities of raising an animal and the long-term commitment involved with raising cattle and rabbits.
Chris Viau, the southwest region liaison/Wood County 4-H youth development agent, has attended the Central Wisconsin State Fair for the past 10 years to assist with 4-H events. Without children of his own showing at this fair, he said, he has an entirely different mindset about youth development and fairs.
“It’s interesting to see how one child may not have done so well previously at the fair, but those children persevere and are determined to do better,” he said. “These same children continue to come back year after year, improving their skills and achieving higher ribbons showing within the same divisions, and continue to learn from previous mistakes.”
Kids come at it from a different perspective: “The fair is when I can spend time with my family,” Bailey Maier said.
“I love being a winner,” Preston Olsen said.
Preston and Bailey showed nine Brown Swiss cattle, and with help from their parents and friends, they were able to achieve great things and spend quality time together.
Not only is the fair a great place for families to spend quality time together, but it is also a great venue for small farmers who want to compete in the show ring. Often, local fairs draw few large farmers because of their demanding work schedules, and most small farmers at this year’s Central Wisconsin State Fair were eager to answer any questions anyone had about animal breeds, raising livestock and more.
Maria Esser, the Central Wisconsin State Fair Junior Fairest of the Fair, and runner-up Rainna Simone summed up the fair as a wonderful experience where one can enjoy all the people and food, see different animals and even learn interesting facts about llamas.