With the first day of the Emmet County Fair under their belt, 4-Hers could take a sigh of relief that their first day of jitters was over. Now it's on to showmanship, something that tests the work youth have put into their animals.
For first-year 4-Hers, this could be the very first time some of them have had to take criticism. Maybe life has been pretty easy up to this point - at least at school and at home. Now, though, someone besides a parent of a teacher is looking at the work they've put into something, whether it's their artistic creation, craft or other project, and telling them what can be improved.
If you listen to the judges, they're very good at what they do. They're very sympathetic to the 4-Hers, telling them what a great job they've done. But maybe - just maybe they suggest to the exhibitors - they could have done something a little different.
And that's how learning happens. By having a sympathetic but instructive person look critically at what they've done and offer advice on how they could have done better.
What we all need to realize about the projects that 4-Hers bring to the fair is how much time they have invested in them. Whether it's raising a prize animal or doing crafts, we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg of their efforts. After working on something for several months - sometimes nearly a year - a judge takes a few minutes to render the verdict.
It's all fair, though (excuse the pun). Everyone is judged by the same criteria. And it's a positive experience for everyone.
Every kid should belong to 4-H - for at least a few years. It's not just a country kid thing. It's an all-kid thing.
4-H teaches kids self-reliance, responsibility, record keeping and public speaking, all skills that adults need for success.
If you have a child or grandchild, consider encouraging him or her to enroll in 4-H. It's one of the best character builders around.
And the effort youth put into it is paid back many times.