To the Point for 6/29/2006

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ANOTHER FAIR is about to begin here in Switzerland County, and again the youth of this county are busy preparing projects in a variety of categories in hopes of bringing home a blue ribbon.

More than 1,000 exhibits — from cakes to cattle — will come to the fair next week, each with dreams of a grand champion ribbon on their minds.

That’s the beauty of the 4-H program, our youth put in a tremendous amount of work merely for a ribbon. Some purple, some pink, others blue and red. Sure, those youth selling livestock get to sell their exhibit at the auction, but when costs of keeping the animal are figured in, rarely does the seller make any sizable profit.

What it all comes down to is a ribbon, tied up at the top with a fancy bow and gleaming with gold lettering. It may not be much to many of us, but to a 4-H’er, it’s everything.

Walk through the fairgrounds next week and you’ll be greeted by children who proudly have their ribbons tied to their belt loops or held securely in their hand. As tight as the knot or the grip is, you’d think they’re carrying a $100 bill.

It’s a special thing to see the real prize be the accomplishment of a job well done, not the paycheck at the end. As adults, often we get caught up in the race for higher paying jobs with better benefit packages solely for monetary gain. We don’t stop to think about the truly important things that bring us happiness and satisfaction.

It is refreshing to once a year be reminded that the real prize in running the race is the running itself, and that the “carrot” on the end of the stick really isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things.

Grand Champion ribbons should go to fair board members this coming week. For many of these folks, the county fair means taking a week’s vacation from their job to go down and live in a cattle barn for a week.

They get up early and stay up late, eating their meals from a paper bag rather than a dinner plate, all to make sure that the 4-H members from this county have the best fair possible.

There are so many people on the board who put in hours that we can never imagine in order to make sure things run smoothly — and also take the flak when things don’t go so well. Good intentions should be congratulated, and these volunteers deserve truckloads of recognition, along with a big “thank you” from the community.

Grand Champion ribbons should also go to the staff of the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service. These hard working folks are here to help with the planning and execution of the county fair, but anyone who sees any of them at the fairgrounds next week knows that it is more than just a job to them.

Schedules are in place, judges are where they’re supposed to be, ribbons and trophies are on hand, and countless other things move along through the week. So smoothly, in fact, no one hardly notices. Can you imagine the paperwork involved in recording the placing of each participant? The livestock area alone would overwhelm a normal person, but the extension staff does it all with a smile on their face, always ready to help answer a question or solve a problem.

Along with these, hundreds of ribbons need to be awarded to the people of the county who, when called on, volunteer their time to help out with the project. Many people aren’t on the fair board, but still come down and help check in projects. They help in the ring during the auction, cook food in the concession building, help with the contests in the Community Building, buy a ticket to a grandstand event that helps fund future programs.

They donate plaques. They help load animals. They decorate cakes and tie ribbons on gift wrapping projects. They are club leaders who organize meetings. They are parents who get their children to those meetings and stay up late to make sure that the project gets done.

The Switzerland County 4-H Fair is truly a community event, and again this year it will be something that this entire community can be proud of.