In the Schenk building at the Ellis County Fairgrounds on Wednesday evening, volunteer fair superintendents Donna Maskus and Marcy McClelland pointed out one of their helpers for the 2019 Ellis County Fair work night, 9-year-old James Dickman.
Dickman, of Hays, was helping clean and decorate empty glass display cases, getting ready for the 4-H food entries that will arrive next Tuesday morning for judging during the fair.
One of those entries will be Dickman’s. A member of the Gemini Jr’s 4-H Club, he’s entering a loaf of white bread that he baked himself, with a little help.
“It’s just regular bread,” Dickman said, “but it tastes good with butter.”
He’s also entering a woodworking project and sewing projects.
“I made two aprons, one for me, and one for my sister,” Dickman said, “and a polo.”
He was set to model them Thursday evening at the 2019 Fashion Revue in the Unrein Building. It’s been a lot of work all year long, but well worth it, he said.
“It’s fun because you make projects, and turn it in and it gets judged,” Dickman said. “It’s fun to get the ribbons.”
There are seven 4-H clubs in Ellis County, with 230 members. Some are town kids, and others are from the country, said Susan Schlichting, 4-H Youth Development agent with the county’s Cottonwood Extension District.
This year there are almost 3,000 entries, which is up from last year, Schlichting said.
Entry categories range from traditional, such as livestock, to nontraditional, such as baking, sewing, rocketry, robotics, shooting sports, computers, technology, horticulture and more.
“This is the evaluation of their work,” Schlichting said. “They set goals at the beginning of the year, worked on their projects, and now they bring them in and sit down with the judges and get interviewed and get feedback. This is the culmination of the year.”
Heather Scheck, 17, with the Victoria Vikings 4-H Club, is entering two heifers and four steers. On Wednesday evening she was cleaning out animal stalls with friends from other 4-H clubs.
Mentioning that she’s also entering meat chickens this year, Scheck said, “I did have 17, but now I have 12, something got to them. I lost two last night,” she said. “I just think they have heart attacks.”
A friend, Caleb, mentioned his own troubles with chickens. “My meat chickens all died,” he said. “The cat got in and ate them all.”
Scheck, a senior at Victoria High School, has been bringing projects for 11 years.
“A lot of people don’t know the fair is about 4-H,” Scheck said. “So I’d encourage people to come look at the exhibits because we all worked real hard on our projects all year, from October until now.”
Kimberly Sack, 13, will be an eighth-grader at Thomas More Prep-Marian. She is a member of the Fashion Revue committee and was helping set up chairs and roll out a “yellow carpet” for the Fashion Revue.
“I made a dress that can be reversible,” Sack said. “I’ve seen my friends do it, and it looks so pretty, so I wanted to do it too.”
She’s been sewing for five years and has won purple and blue ribbons.
“It’s fun when they judge you,” Sack said, “they ask you questions, like ‘Where would you wear it?’ ‘How would you wash it?’ ‘Can you wear it to school?’”
At the small animal barn for rabbits and chickens, Dominic Pianalto, of Hays, was washing down the concrete floor. His 8-year-old son, Barrett, had found a bird’s nest. A member of the Good Hope 4-H Club, Barrett is showing a bucket calf, a goat and a rooster in the animal categories, and a zucchini from their garden in the foods and nutrition category, said Pianalto.
“We raised a big garden, so we’ve got vegetables,” he said. “My kids love being outdoors and they help with the garden. All the kids who don’t know where their food comes from, I want my kids to know it, and to know that farmers are good people.”
Hays high senior Megan Howe, of Hays, is a member of the Shooting Sports 4-H Club and has been coming to the fair for seven years. This year she’s just helping.
“I’ll help in the 4-H food stand and checking in other people’s projects,” Howe said. “I’m just going to try and enjoy the fair. We always go to the races, that’s one of our favorites.”
Anyone can enter a project, said Schlichting, noting there’s an open-class division. Categories range from photography, handwork and food, to flowers, woodworking, welding and many others.
Those entries can be brought to Deutschfest Hall at the fairgrounds, 1344 Fairground Road, from 2-7 p.m. Monday.
“We won’t turn anyone away,” said Schlichting. “Tuesday is judging day and with open-class the person doesn’t have to be present. Tuesday evening the entries are open for viewing.”