Every evening, 12-year-old Cody York feeds, walks and cleans the 4-H pigs he has been raising for months.
He is in the final stages of getting the animals ready for the Johnson County 4-H and Agricultural Fair in July, where Oreo and Dodge will be shown among hundreds of animals.
This is Cody’s fourth year of showing pigs at the fair. He also is putting the final touches on six other projects, including dioramas, models, fish and chickens.
“It’s awesome how I get bonded so close to the pigs,” Cody said.
Cody is one of 1,281 4-H’ers in Johnson County who will take projects and animals to this year’s fair. Although the fair starts July 19, all projects must be turned in the week before the fair opens so they can be judged. So for the next three weeks, it is crunch time for 4-H’ers to add those last-minute details such as adding one more coat of paint on a piece of furniture or gluing one more model airplane together.
Some have yet to start.
Take 17-year-old Kyle Burris of Greenwood, for example. He is entering seven projects into the fair this year, but he does not know what one of his projects — a geology-based poster — is going to be yet. He knows he cannot wait until the last minute to come up with the idea for his projects and execute them, he said. For a previous fair, he stayed up late every night during judging week to finish his projects. He doesn’t want to go through that again this year.
Burris is a member of the Hoosier Hotshots 4-H Club, which includes students mostly from the Center Grove area. While most 4-H clubs meet once a month, the Hotshots meet weekly during June to prepare students for the fair.
Each week, leaders teach students how to speak to judges and even do a mock food judging so students can perfect their baking or cooking recipes.
Like Burris, most students in the 80-member club enter multiple projects each year.
Club member Heather Ziegler, 15, scaled down her number of projects from 17 last year to five this year. She said she wants to experience all that the 4-H club can provide, so she is trying to submit as many projects as she can before she graduates from high school.
“I’m starting to realize that 4-H isn’t going to be forever,” she said. “I want to take advantage of this opportunity.”
But this year, she is more relaxed since she has fewer projects to finish. She is focusing on a sewing project, card-making, fashion review, making a diorama and refinishing a table for the home environment category.
Even though she has fewer projects, her days have been dedicated to the fair. Earlier this week, she started staining a table but decided to use a difficult stain for the wood and needed to sand down the entire table — wasting five hours of a summer day, she said.
As much as Heather loves 4-H, she does have summer events planned, too. So she makes a to-do list of what projects she wants to finish per week leading up to the fair. For example, her table should be finished before the end of this week, when she heads on vacation.
Club leaders encourage 4-H’ers not to wait until the last minute, and one even suggests students start their projects more than six months in advance, if possible.
Sandy Adams, who has been a leader with the Nineveh Clover Rovers for 37 years, encourages her members to work on projects throughout the year instead of waiting for summer.
When her two sons were in 4-H, she would get them model airplanes or buildings for Christmas presents, and the boys would be excited to put them together during Christmas break, she said. By the time the fair rolled around, the boys only needed to submit their work.
Amy Dougherty, leader of Whiteland’s Clover Power 4-H Club, tells her 130 club members to set a deadline for themselves. For Dougherty’s three children who are in 4-H, she set a date of July 1 to have their projects finished.
“This is my kids’ sport,” Dougherty said. “Every day of the summer, until the fair, that’s what they’re doing.”
Johnson County 4-H and Agricultural Fair is July 19-25 at the county fairgrounds in Franklin.