By Louisa Benatovich
ECS Student Reporter
The Cattaraugus County Fair is just around the corner and Ellicottville 4-H members are working ‘round the clock in preparation.
The 4-H organization, facilitated in Ellicottville by the Cornell Cooperative Extension, is an international organization dedicated to “empowering young people with the skills to lead for a lifetime.” In rural areas like this, 4-H focuses on the particular skills and leadership qualities needed to, for example, run a farm or hunt humanely.
Many Ellicottville students are proud 4-H’ers, as the 4-H organization gives them an opportunity to excel outside of school grounds. Every year, 4-H’ers have the opportunity to show their animals, produce and art at the Cattaraugus County Fair in the hopes of winning prizes.
Meganne Chapman, a senior at Ellicottville Central School, has been showing at the county fair since she was five. Starting in Open Class and transitioning to 4-H when she was seven, Chapman proudly shows registered Jersey dairy cows. Recently, she has started entering photos for 4-H and Open Class, for which she has won several prizes.
The showing process for cattle is a rigorous one and at the fair, calves, heifers and cows are divided into age groups within their breeds.
“The judge,” Meganne says, “is looking for the most correct dairy animal that represents her breed.”
Through 4-H, there is also a Showmanship Class where the judge looks for the best presentation of the handler, not necessarily the animal.
“My favorite part of showing my hard work at the fair is not entirely winning,” says Meganne. “It’s more for me the fact that other people can view what I like to do as a hobby. Also, there are people that I only see once a year and the fair brings us back together.”
She goes on to say that, “The most difficult part is the preparation. It doesn’t happen overnight. To prepare for the fair is a 365-day job. I have to train the calves to walk with a halter and slowly walk with a handler. Closer to fair time, I have to clip all of my animals to get them ready for the show ring. For my photography, the preparation is also difficult. Throughout the year preceding the fair, I’m on the lookout for the perfect scenes that catch my eye. Closer to fair time, I have to order the pictures and frames. I also take several hours to frame my pictures and organize any collages I’ve entered.”
Brooke Eddy, a junior at ECS, has been showing at the Cattaraugus County Fair for four years. Also a 4-H’er, Brooke takes great pride in the animals she prepares for showing. Unlike Meganne, Brooke shows pigs and goats and, in previous years, has shown chickens and lambs.
For her, the best part of the whole process is getting to see all her friends and everybody else’s hard work.
“The most difficult part, I have to say, is the preparation,” says Brooke. “Getting the animals ready and making sure they’re the right weight is the most important part of the show.”
Mandy Hurlburt, an incoming freshman at ECS, has been a dedicated 4-H’er for six years. This year, Mandy plans to show a hog and a goat, though she has shown a variety of animals, including sheep, dairy steers, chickens and turkeys at previous fairs.
“I love showing at the Catt. County Fair,” Mandy says, “and I love that 4-H helps me to do it. Being a 4-H member has helped me become a better person. I have learned to give back to the community. My 4-H club, ‘The Valley Workers,’ has given back by having car washes where all the proceeds go to St. Jude’s.”
She says that her favorite part is watching others and learning how to get better.
“I also love meeting new people and making friends,” she notes.
Be sure to visit the Cattaraugus County Fairgrounds July 30 through Aug. 5 to witness for yourself the hard work and dedication of these young women and 4-H’ers across the area. Don’t forget to stop in at the 4-H Youth Building to marvel at Meganne’s photos, as well as vegetables, fruits, carpentry, confections, clothes and posters all crafted by 4-H’ers. A lucky few may even see their projects go to the State Fair for judging. Despite this, the Cattaraugus County Fair isn’t merely another opportunity for competition — it’s a family-friendly event in which mistakes are made, learning is everywhere, and solidarity is key.