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Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Festival Experience!

I am not much of a festival person.  And, I was not so sure about how Zaira would do for the four days we had committed to with the forestry museum section.  However, I decided the best thing to do was take one day at a time.  Our family always enjoys the festival and it really is a relaxing time as I can sit at the 4H booth even after our 4H crew gets bored sitting.  I feel very safe while the children go around to all of the entertainment under the pavilion where we are located because I can see them easily from our location.  This year that included a kid game show, nature art classes, lumberjack activities, wood turners, Caddo Mounds exhibit, and so much more!  Also, Michael was able to take them to several shows when other families from our club worked our booth.  We had several other families from our club scheduled throughout the 'weekend' so it would work out as well as could be expected.

I must say from the start that the forestry museum has given our club (and the county) a great opportunity to promote 4H over the last four years.  Having a 4H booth at this state festival is a great chance to show the importance of 4H for our youth.  I am always amazed at how many people we are able to speak to in the four days at the festival.  There are so many people who have never heard of 4H or see it as a club associated with livestock.  Our club goes to a lot of effort to ensure 4H in general is represented.

This year the forestry museum took this one step further by asking us if we would like to have a contest during the festival.  I jumped at the opportunity because I immediately saw this as a chance to represent the outdoor activities we enjoy in 4H.  This idea was first brought to my attention last fall after the last festival.  The director asked if it was something we would like to do and I said yes.  Not much more thought was given to the idea but he brought it up again about six months ago.  I again told him that I had some ideas that might work and it was pushed from my thoughts again.  Then three months ago, I started seriously considering the idea and what the contest might look like in reality.  That is when I heard about an outdoor challenge presented at the 4H state round up.  It sounded a lot like what I had in mind for our contest.

To no surprise, I found Larry (our good friend from WHEP) was in charge of this contest. I asked him if he would be willing to share his ideas with me.  After talking with him, it was confirmed that this was the best way to represent all of our favorite outdoor projects in a short amount of time.  Larry was thrilled to help us make it a reality; however, he had several events throughout the summer and I should get back in touch with him in August.

As you all know from reading my blog, I had a busy month in August with the birth of our newest little one.  However, I managed to talk with Larry again at the beginning of September.  At that time Larry not only volunteered some supplies but his own services to assist in the festival contest. One thing I had wanted for the contest was a way to have shooting sports represented.  Larry just happened to have a portable shooting range that he was willing to bring to the festival!

So, the first couple of days at the festival we had a small booth with an observation hive.  I was so thankful for Robert (our beekeeping project leader) who set up this hive.  The first night we had Robin, Zach, Taylor, Sherry and Joanna helping at our booth.  We spoke to about 60+ individuals by showing them our hive and then discussing the other possibilities 4H had to offer.  The second night we had about the same number of festival-goers learn about 4H with the help of Wanda and Joseph.

Then Larry showed up with the shooting range on Friday.  We decided to get the range set up the night before in order to guarantee it would be ready for the contest the next day.  It would also be a way for us to further demonstrate 4H and its various projects.  This turned out to be a great way to advertise our walk up contest as well.  It definitely helped to have a large trailer with 4H natural resources across the front right next to our booth!  That night we spoke to almost 150 people!  We had Kevin, Carolyn, Dwayne, Brenda, Treyton and Brianna helping us that night.  It was good to have so many of us that night because we were divided between our observation hive and the shooting range (which quickly became a popular activity!).

Michael and I stayed up late Friday night to confirm that we had all of our supplies ready for our "4H Challenge."  Then up again early Saturday to arrive in time to set up before the festival began at 9am.  The idea was to have a walk up contest for all ages to participate.  We divided the participants into three categories (8-13years old, 14-18 years old and adult) in order to award top prizes at the end of the day.  We were even fortunate enough to have participant prizes donated by our friends from 'Friends of the Forest."  Then a man from the JAKES Day event last weekend volunteered to share some gun locks for the bags.  Larry added to these give away bags when he arrived so we had 4H goodies as well.

The contest had four stations for the participants to answer various questions related to:

  • Wildlife/WHEP
  • Wildlife/Forestry plant identification
  • Entomology
  • Hunting Safety/Gaming laws

After completing these stations, the participants were given an opportunity to shoot at targets of various sizes.  The high score was 50 points over all the categories.

At first we had a slow start, but once we got things going at the stations, others showed interest.  By the end of the day, we had 50 registered participants.  However, most of these registered in the contest had observers who only wanted to watch.  I believe we had over 200 people who learned that 4H is not just about livestock!  Throughout the day we had several club members help at the booth.  It was great to have Sherri, Timothy, Kayleigh, Brenda, Brianna, Treyton, Jamie, Lisa, Coty, Kristen, Christi, Rebecca, Jaron, Tracey, Sarah, Steven, Laura and Matthew at our booth. Along with Larry and a kind college student we know (Alex) who happened to be wandering through the festival at the right time, we had a successful and busy day showcasing 4H projects.

I was especially thankful for the families who worked the 4H Challenge contest.  It all ran very smoothly as we all worked to get the participants around to the various stations with a small group of volunteers.  The younger participants often needed assistance with reading and our 4Hers were right there through it all.

I can not go with out also giving a special thank you to those who worked the last hour of the contest, so our family could prepare for the hushpuppy contest that began at 2pm....the same time our 4H challenge was to end!  Michael, Sean and Henry rushed into costume and made it to the arena, along with Brianna, in time to make their hushpuppy recipe.  Remember they were dressed up as Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, and Betsy Ross!  They made an awesome hushppuppy filled with chicken, artichokes, mozarella and jalepenos.

They did a great job and many who tasted their creation enjoyed it.  However, as we all know, the judges' tastebuds are who they need to appease.  This year that was not what the judges were looking for in a hushpuppy.  Ultimately, the winning hushpuppy was a cream cheese jalepeno jelly creation.

The prize for showmanship (which is determined by costume. decorations and audience participation) would slip through their hands as well.  The winning team for this award got the audience to answer duck calls while they made their hushpuppies!

We learned a lot about hushpuppies and showmanship strategies for next year.  The group of us (contestestants and moms) will think about these things for next year.  We do not give up easily and are already thinking about what to do for next year!

While we waited for the results of the hushpuppy contest, I raced back to the 4H booth to thank Larry before he headed back home.  I also grabbed the contest score sheets to grade.  This worked out well as Michael and I were able to grade these in time to give out the results at 6pm.  The top winners were given $10 gift cards for Wal-mart.

This announcement completed our time at the festival.  We had a great time and were glad to show how 4H likes to 'make the best better.'

Oh!...and before I can end our talk of the festival, I need to tell about an awesome experience we had with our observation hive!  Each time I spoke to the festival-goers about the beehive, I would talk about the formation of a new honeybee.  I would also told them about the first job a bee has when it emerges from its larva cleans its room!  This is always a funny thing to talk about and gets the children and their moms something to laugh about the bees.  So...there we were on the last day (almost to ready to put it all away!) and a group came up to see the hive.  I gave my little talk about the bees and when I told them about the first job of a worker bee I pointed to a cell that had a larva.  The exciting part came when there happened to be a cell where a new bee was EMERGING from its cell!  I was so excited to show this happening...we also called the other 4Hers around to view and we watched for several minutes.  In fact, the bee did clean its cell and moved around the hive near it.  Within five minutes the cell was so clean it could have a new egg laid in it! It was so awesome!  I was so glad that my little talk about bees was really made my little talk that much more real to those who saw it.  I love having the observation hive for several days...I learn so much every time!

In the middle of all of this festival fun, we also managed to make our monthly trip to the VA Clinic to serve our veterans sandwiches and donuts.  It was great to have the help of Katy and Lynda as well.  We served over 40 sandwiches and several dozen donuts and countless cups of coffee.  It was fun showing off little Zaira to he regulars who had not met her yet!  Just as we were preparing to shut down early so we could return to the festival preparations, Theresa and her children arrived to serve.  That was a great relief as I hated to leave before the clinic closed for the afternoon.

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