(BROWNSTOWN) - From lemon blueberry coffee cake to lamps made from an old flute, Jackson County Fairgrounds saw it all as local 4-H'ers delivered their projects for open judging Wednesday.
"It's a big day for a lot of kids," said Pam Hess, Jackson County Purdue Extension educator. She's in charge of 4-H youth development.
Jessica Squires, of the Tribune reports, Hess said one-third of the projects were judged in open judging Wednesday. In open judging, kids bring their projects directly to the judges, who view the projects and assign a red ribbon, a blue ribbon or a blue star. Those with blue stars will be judged later for overall champion.
"It gives the kids the opportunity to talk with judges about their work," Hess said. "They give the praise and hints as to how they can make their projects better next year."
There are projects from which to choose. Kids become involved with a club by meeting year-round, learning the skills and requirements of their projects. They then bring in a display of their work on project day ahead of the annual fair.
Siblings Tristan and Dillon Maschino of Crothersville brought their photography projects to be judged Wednesday. Both said they enjoy taking pictures and meeting new people through 4-H.
Tristan, 13, showed her picture of her cousin, Mallory, shoveling dirt.
"I just loved her facial expression," Tris¬tan said, "She was happy being there."
Dillon, 11, had other motives for his pictures of sledding with a four-wheeler.
"My sister kept falling off," he said.
Hess said of all the projects that come through the fair, the most amazing thing she has seen is the kids. She said through the years, she watches kids mature and learn independence.
"Later in life, they will discover that they have learned to plan ahead," Hess said. "They figure out how to learn from their mistakes."
Kids take away life skills, including money management, time management and a focus on community engagement on top of the skills they learn through their projects, Hess said. She said even after kids have grown out of the program, they return to volunteer.
"They see that someone gave for them, and they want to give back," Hess said.
4-H volunteer and co-chair of the foods project Robin Carpenter said her children are involved in 4-H and she was a 4-H'er herself as a kid.
"You learn a lot," Carpenter said. "I think it gives such a variety of things kids can learn."
Barb Leffler of Freetown, the other foods co-chair, said that in projects such as foods, kids are learning things they can use for the rest of their lives.
"It's a part of life," Leffler said. " Everybody's got to cook to eat something -- unless you want to eat at McDonald's every night for the rest of your life."
Shannon Franklin of Rising Sun, Ind., came to Jackson County to be a judge for the foods projects. Franklin participated in 4-H and is now an extension educator in Ohio County. She said the chance for kids to showcase talents is just one of the many things kids might take away from 4-H.
"The experience of hands-on learning and the development of life skills will be carried on through the rest of a kid's life," Franklin said.
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