Helpers make clean sweep
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
It's tough to keep track of Susan Schlichting during fair time. Ask someone if they have seen the Ellis County 4-H Extension agent, and the way they point is not where Schlichting is.
Usually dressed in either 4-H green or K-State Extension purple, Schlichting is busy darting around, making sure everything is running smoothly.
On Wednesday, it was annual cleanup night at the Ellis County Fairgrounds in preparation for the 2012 Ellis County Fair.
As Schlichting made her way through the grounds, from the 4-H food stand to the animal barns to a pizza supper in the air-conditioned buildings, two things were evident about Schlichting -- it was all positive, and it was all about the 4-H'ers.
Watching volunteers cleaning glass windows on the display cases and hearing the whir of a vacuum cleaner, Schlichting appeared satisfied with the progress in the Schenk Building.
Down the hill to the south, inside the small animal barn, youngsters and their parents were sweeping the cement floors and carrying in wire cages.
Just outside the barn, near the livestock show arena, members of the Junior 4-H'ers organization were preparing a sandbox for youngsters to play in while their parents watch the various shows.
Nearby, Pam Montgomery, the county poultry leader, was testing poultry for Pullorum-Typhoid disease.
"It's a disease that poultry -- chickens and turkeys -- can carry, and we want to make sure none is being brought to the fair," said Montgomery, who was being assisted by her daughter, Amanda Montgomery, a former 4-H'er and now assistant poultry leader for the county.
Pam Montgomery said she usually travels to the youngsters' homes about two weeks prior to the fair. But she brings along her testing materials for any animals she might have missed beforehand.
The next stop for Schlichting was the 4-H food stand, the main fundraiser for 4-H clubs during the fair.
She definitely was pleased with a new, wider 10-inch counter installed this week, making it easier for 4-H'ers to place trays of food for customers outside the serving windows.
Just inside the door sat four hand sanitization units that will be placed outside around the building.
"Some people aren't familiar with the germs they are exposed to around the animals," Schlichting said. "If people haven't been around livestock, they don't have the immunities from some germs, so it pays to wash your hands or use the sanitizers after visiting the critters."
The food stand won't open for business until Tuesday, but 4-H activities actually begin today. The fashion revue is set for 5:30 p.m. in the Unrein Family Building at the fairgrounds.
Emily Staab of the Buckeye Junior Farmers club was all alone in the beef barn, digging a trench in the dirt all along the area where her beef projects and those of her younger brother, Connor, will make their home for the few days next week.
Schlichting chatted with Staab for a while, then moved on.
Schlichting smiled as she reached the first of two large animal barns on the south end of the lot.
"By golly, look at this," she said as she approached the goat, sweep and swine barn, noticing cardboard placards hanging above several stalls even though those animals won't be brought to town until Tuesday.
"We have 4-H families who already have their stuff hanging," Schlichting said. "They're ready."
From the looks of things Wednesday, so too is Schlichting.