The Madison County 4-H Fair is a working fair.
To folks who enjoy the carnival rides, savor the fair food and meander through the livestock barns and project displays, the amount of energy and time that go into planning, scheduling, preparation, set up, execution and cleanup might not be apparent.
The 4-H'ers, of course, pour dozens, sometimes hundreds of hours into their projects. Whether they show cute little pocket pets or 1,200-pound steers, 4-H'ers must dedicate themselves to feeding, grooming and cleaning up after their animals for several months, or even several years.
Those who participate in non-livestock projects — from aerospace to woodworking and everything in-between — put in that extra effort to make their entry the best it can be.
The work is demanding but the rewards are great. Each 4-H'er learns invaluable lessons about responsibility and commitment. Whether the prize ribbon is blue, red, white or some other color, it's emblematic of their effort.
Behind every 4-H project stands a legion of supporters, from parents and grandparents to siblings and friends, who provide resources, advice and encouragement.
Many moms and dads were 4-H'ers themselves. Many families have been in 4-H for generations. These folks want their children to benefit from the fun experiences and lessons that helped set the foundation for their adult lives.
But 4-H isn't just a family affair. Others, particularly from the farming community, step forward to help make sure the fairgrounds in Alexandria are safe, clean and logistically arranged for the fair. They mend fences, move gates, spread wood shavings and help direct animals, 4-H'ers and spectators. From the show barn announcer to contest judges to entertainment stage set up to parking attendants, it takes a team to bring the fair to life.
As the fair winds down toward its Saturday conclusion, these folks will work overtime to make sure the facilities are in good shape. And then they'll start to look forward to next year's Madison County 4-H Fair.
It's hard work, but it's a labor of love.