LIMA — While a host of adults are there as important and valued supports, Junior Fair is for the kids, by the kids.
That’s the philosophy of new 4-H Extension Educator Tracy Orians.
“This is their fair. It’s about them. We’re just here to make sure they have all the tools they need to be successful,” Orians said. “I’m looking forward to being an overall support, being there for the kids, parents, volunteers and superintendents. And I want to make sure people get a chance to learn who I am and that I’m here to help.”
An Ottawa County native who participated in 4-H growing up, Orians started as the 4-H educator earlier this year. She graduated in December from the University of Toledo with a master’s in school counseling. Her undergraduate degree is in psychology.
While Orians has 4-H experience, Junior Fair is new to her, she said.
“I’m learning as we go along. Everything is a learning experience right now,” she said.
The Junior Fair office, under the Grandstand, is just starting to buzz. The 40 participants in Junior Fair, who come from 4-H, Future Farmers of America, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, will are working on cleaning their spaces at the Fairgrounds and getting ready for exhibitions and competitions.
Leeana McKamey, 4-H program assistant, said she’s looking forward to putting faces with names that she sees all year. The number of youth in Junior Fair and the number of projects entered has grown this year she said, in contrast to places around the state seeing shrinking numbers. About 1,100 youth in Allen County participate in 4-H; many of them will bring their projects, from photography to dairy beef, to the fair.
“Our goal is to develop them into leaders, someday being the adults helping out with the fair,” McKamey said. “They’re very proud of what they do. They’ve been through the 4-H program, seen the older kids, looked up to them, and now it’s their turn.”
There are more than 200 projects from which youth can pick; many have nothing to do with livestock or agriculture; participants can even dream up their own project.
“I really believe there is a project for everyone,” Orians said. “You can take them as far as you want to, as much as you like.”
Taking those projects to the fair is like icing on the cake, Orians and McKamey agreed, especially because of the number of people seeing the results.
“Come out to their fair, McKamey encouraged. “Come see all the hard work the kids have been doing.”