We Survived the Fair: a Salute to the 4-H Parent

I have decided to make an annual 4-H blog posting. But more so as a dedication to all the 4-H parents (and helpers) out there who survived extreme heat (head index of 100 plus day after day), kept numerous 4-H animals alive and managed to also keep their children alive as well. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Fair and the 4-H program. I worked as an Extension Educator for 8 years, I showed livestock for 10 years as a 4-H member, I loved doing the home environment projects, etc. I have a lot of wonderful memories from my time as a 4-H member and now as a 4-H parent.

However, I have learned a lot as a new 4-H parent in the past couple of years. You really don’t understand the stress, challenges, happiness, etc. until you have a child in the 4-H program. Anything with ribbons, rules, deadlines, paperwork, and competitiveness can be hard and challenging but I think there are a lot of parents who navigate that mine field very well and few who do not.

Here is what I have learned about being a 4-H parent:

• Heat makes everyone even more cranky.

• Hottest time in the summer is always during the fair.

• Children can spend an average of $25 a day easily on deep-fried fair food (and then puke it all up and look at you cluelessly).

• No matter how much you prep your child for chores, responsibilities, etc. as soon as they see friends at the fairgrounds, they bolt (and return after lots of yelling and eye rolling).

• You will smell bad, the whole week. PERIOD. Everyone and everything in your car will stink as well. You will shower about 150 times that week.

• Completely understand the importance of activity sheets/record sheets, but death to them all when you have a child who has to be threatened within every inch of his life to fill them out.

• No sleep (sleep is soooo overrated during fair week).

But on some more positive notes, my son’s pride in his projects and animals cannot be experienced by another sport or activity. He is very proud of his work, he loves showing others his projects and pigs, and always makes plans to do more or show more the following year (insert parent eye roll here). I often end the fair feeling like a failed parent as my only goals are to keep animals and kids alive that week. Survival. However, I try not to miss or overlook how important this week is to my children and to their personal growth, self-esteem, and love of agriculture.


To all the hardworking 4-H parents out there, I salute you and your dedication to your children, and all your time, patience, sweat, maybe even tears or a few cuss words in there, but you deserve a big thank you! Keep it up! I am so amazed by so many dedicated 4-H parents who help guide, support, and help their children. It really takes a village to raise a 4-H member. Or maybe a community to raise a 4-H member. Either way, it is a team effort for many.

Happy fair to those who getting ready for their local fairs and congrats to those who have survived their local fairs.

Side note: there should be a parent support group for 4-H parents which includes, cold drinks, a private air condition tent (no children allowed), and matching t-shirts.

One thought on “We Survived the Fair: a Salute to the 4-H Parent

  1. As a mom, who’s last child just finished her 10 years, I agree with you on all counts! But we wouldn’t want to miss a moment of it. The excitement of showing animals the kids have worked with for months, watching the judge, watching them. The thrill of seeing your child accept a big purple ribbon, plaque or trophy makes all the blood, sweat and tears worth it. Now, as I see these 4H awards and crown and sash of royalty in my daughter’s room, I see that chapter close and her college adventure coming fast. I know 4H has helped prepare her for many things in her future and given her, and us, memories to last a lifetime. You helped us get through many a rough day over the years dear Natalie and we will always love you. Blessings to you and your wonderful boys as they navigate the long ten years of 4H, that in the end, feel more like 10 minutes.🐄🐖👑🍺


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