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County fair provides learning experience




One intern had attended a fair in just one county. The other never had been to a county fair, period.

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One intern had attended a fair in just one county. The other never had been to a county fair, period.

But both Julie Weber and Kristin Wirth said they soon won't forget their experiences at the 2012 Ellis County Fair while interning with Ellis County Extension this summer.

Weber, who grew up near Garden Plain and was hired by the Ellis County Extension Council, participated in 4-H and annually attended the Sedgwick County Fair as a youngster.

She now is a senior-to-be at Fort Hays State University, majoring in biology education.

Wirth grew up on a farm north of Claflin and was 45 minutes away from the nearest 4-H club in Great Bend. So she didn't participate in 4-H and never even attended a county fair before this year.

A senior at Kansas State University who will graduate in December with a degree in microbiology, Wirth came to Ellis County as part of K-State's internship program and soon found people in the Hays area were intrigued with her last name.

Werth, pronounced the same but spelled with an "e," is a common Ellis County name.

"People will say, 'Oh, do you now this Werth or that Werth?' " Wirth said. "And then if I have my name tag on, they'll go, 'Oh, Werth with an 'I?' "

While Weber's forte is working with cattle, one of her specialties in 4-H, she developed and implemented a skill-a-thon judging contest about animal management 4-H'ers took at the fair.

"It seemed like it would be a good opportunity, and I knew I would be working at the fair," Weber said of her decision to apply for the internship. "And I like fairs.

"Plus, we did other things outside of 4-H," listing several activities she attended with Susan Schlichting, Ellis County's Extension agent in charge of 4-H and youth development -- such as the Crime Scene Investigation camp at FHSU and workshops at Hays Recreation Center.

Wirth, a self-proclaimed "addict to microbiology and research" who works in two laboratories at K-State, worked mostly with foods and nutrition programs in Hays -- mostly at Hays Public Library -- while working alongside Linda Beech, family and consumer science Extension agent.

"I've gotten so much personal experience working with groups and have been able to give presentations," Wirth said.

"And it's given me an avenue where I can apply a lot of things to the real world. In school, the driving force is to do a good job for a grade, but this is because I'm wanting to do it."

The summer also has been a first for Beech, who came to Hays from Finney County in January.

Beech has worked at county fairs in Kansas for 34 years, including the last 16 in Garden City. But she "had never worked with a summer Extension intern before."

"Having an intern is a real luxury," she said. "And it's a real wonderful opportunity to work with someone who shares similar interests. They've both been a real asset to our office."