Photography by Terry Mayer and Lynn Vollbrecht
By Eric Steurer
JANESVILLE — While thousands of young people from around the county got a chance to showcase their talents, thousands more enjoyed the food and fun at this year’s Rock County 4-H Fair, which wrapped up Sunday.
Attendance was down about 10 percent from last year, however (see related graphic). Revenue also dropped.
Still, fair officials were pleased with the event.
“Overall, we’re happy with the results,” said fair board vice president Teresa Reilly. “Our main mission every year is to make enough money and have enough attendance to put on the fair the next year. We’ve done that.”
Wednesday, which was bracelet day for the rides, had the highest single-day attendance at just under 17,000.
Meat sales set a record this year, even though 50 fewer animals were sold. Buyers spent $352,000 on cattle, lambs and barrows. That broke last year’s record of $350,000.
Hard work preparing for the fair paid off for youngsters like Becky Shilts of Orfordville, who added several awards to her collection after showing five goats this year.
Shilts won in the dairy goat showmanship competition for the fifth- and sixth-grade group, which had 13 competitors. The competition judges young animal owners on how well they show the animal, as well as their knowledge of the goat.
Shilts, in her fourth year in 4-H, said it’s a lot of work to get ready for the fair. She’s had a few reserve champions and a lot of blue and red ribbons in the past, and also had a grand champion Toggenburg goat.
While she expects to continue to show for many more years, others will be moving on.
Tyler Haney doesn’t hesitate when asked what he’s going to miss most about 4-H.
“The people,” said the 19-year-old, a 12-year 4-H veteran with the Beloit Bulldogs club. “You meet some really interesting people in 4-H.”
Haney lives on a farm west of Beloit, and though he’s especially proud of placing second blue with his crossbred, 273-pound hog, he’s had the chance to participate in projects ranging from vegetables to rocketry to beef cattle over the years.
“I enjoyed this,” Haney said. “I wish I could do it longer, after high school.”
Staff writer Lynn Vollbrecht contributed to this story.