A lesson in hard workPublished 9:08am Thursday, August 20, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
BERRIEN SPRINGS – There are many who head up to the Berrien County Youth Fair grounds each year, as spectators to the festivities.
They steal some shade in the stands while watching riders take their horses for laps and stand their majestic breeds as still as stone for the judges. Make rounds through virtual mazes of various fair food stands – trying to sample a little bit of everything without suffering a stomach ache – or spend countless hours viewing everything from prize winning swine to soft, excitable rabbits – the fair can be a fun and leisurely way to spend a day.
But it is a different, broadening experience for those whose animals are up for show at the fair. It’s a lesson in hard work that begins when the sun awakens the sky – a lesson that has mounted from days, months and even sometimes years worth of preparation.
Through a sea of young faces running from the carousel to the fun house to the bumper cars and the Ferris wheel, just past the ice cold lemonade stand, Cloe Forray-Molica feels the whip of the wind as one of the fair’s rides lifts her, tilts her and spins her around.
Just as quickly as the 11-year-old hops off her ride in search of the next ride, she’s making her way back through the fair’s pathways to the goat pen, alongside Mackenzie Underly where three of their 4-H group’s boar goats claim their reign – Cloe and Mackenzie’s reserve grand champions and Mackenzie’s brother Nick’s Grand Champion.
It’s not a bad start for Forray-Molica, who is experiencing her first year as a participant in the Berrien County Youth Fair.
“It’s been pretty good,” she said Wednesday.
Pretty good for a pretty busy first year. Fair goers and participants were hit with heavy rains on opening day, which also saw the group’s win, which they have followed up with a combination of celebration and fun and preparation for more upcoming judging and contests.
“Goats are hard to take care of,” she added lightly.
It is here, in the pen that the children who are the foundation of the Berrien County Youth Fair truly show the lessons learned through the fair experience.
They rush through narrow walkways at each other’s heels, together whenever possible. Their eyes are trained to be sure that the area around where their animals reside is cleaned and orderly.
In the early mornings, they’re pulling out old bedding and replacing it with new.
Where some children might balk at the idea of pulling a live animal out of its pen in the morning hours to give it a good bath, Cloe and the friends she’s made in her first year showing animals at the fair – would think nothing of it.
Well, almost nothing. “I had to wash them,” Forray-Molica said. “Which was really hard.”
Spots are cleaned with baby wipes, hooves are given a good scrub and shine.
In their second year of participating in the fair, Nick and Mackenzie seem to have it down.
Mackenzie won reserve grand champion for the second time, getting the same recognition last year as she smiles, a glint of looking for that grand champion status flashes across her face.
Still, all competition aside, it is “the connection I get to have with animals,” that she said she enjoys the most when it comes to taking part in the fair.
As the Berrien County Youth Fair continues, drawing ever so closer to the end of its week, children like Nick, Mackenzie and Cloe represent what this experience is all about.
Their mothers, who are nearby as the three handle their animals, cleaning up behind them, know the experience all too well. Both showed their own animals when they were young.
But they’re not alone in recognizing the lessons that their children will take home with them each summer.
Like the hard work, “getting them (animals) from the barn to the showroom,” Nick said with a slight smile. Responsibility comes with caring for their respective animals and keeping the barns in good order.
“Yeah,” said Cloe. “We’ve learned a lot about that (responsibility).”
And when they take their steps in front of the judges, there is also the matter of built confidence and self-esteem.
When he stood before judges this year, Nick said, “I was thinking … I’m confident.”
And that confidence surely didn’t hurt the outcome as his goat won grand champion.
Parents and supervisors acknowledge that the experience builds characteristics in the youth taking part in the fair that will carry them into adulthood.
But there is also is the matter of forging friendships and meeting people from outside their respective towns.
Cloe and Mackenzie, who hadn’t met before working together at the fair as part of the same group – will enjoy attending school together this coming school year.
Though for each of them, this year’s fair is far from over, there are plenty more competitions and activities to take part in, such as the costume portion of the fair where animal and handler dress up for judges, they all said they will be back next year – plenty of good memories (water fights included) fueling the smiles spread across their faces.
It’s almost as if the ribbons come in a close second to the experience itself.
Lessons, said Cloe’s mother, you can’t just go and pay for.