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Friday, 12 August 2016 15:09

Winnebago County Fair: It's not just for farming anymore

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Stephanie Graupner, a member of the Tri River Tryers 4-H, shows her antler jewelry rack to judge Erika Palmquist during pre-fair judging Aug. 5 at the Winnebago County Fairgrounds. Graupner has participated in the Winnebago County Fair since she was 5 years old. Stephanie Graupner, a member of the Tri River Tryers 4-H, shows her antler jewelry rack to judge Erika Palmquist during pre-fair judging Aug. 5 at the Winnebago County Fairgrounds. Graupner has participated in the Winnebago County Fair since she was 5 years old. Terry Mayer/staff

PECATONICA -- Makayla Barker is considering a career in producing stop-animation films.

Barker, 18, of Roscoe, is getting experience in the field in an unlikely place. Most people think of 4-H as a place to work on animal and craft projects from the farm.

But a stop-animation film made by Barker is an entry for this year’s Winnebago County Fair. Barker’s film depicts a penguin participating in a sled race. She said she developed the idea while participating in a video contest.

"There was a video contest where they gave you a song, and I had to come up with a story to go along with the song," Barker said.

Barker has participated in the fair and has been a member of 4-H for about seven years. She said most years, she has shown dogs. Barker said being involved with 4-H and presenting at the fair has given her an opportunity to work on different projects and explore new interests.

Barker is just one of many 4-H members who will be presenting a project at the fair, which will be held from Tuesday to Sunday, Aug. 16-21, at the Winnebago County Fairgrounds in Pecatonica.

Stacy Cwiklo, program coordinator for the University of Illinois Extension Winnebago County 4-H, said about 1,000 4-H projects have been submitted for this year’s fair. Categories include horticulture, computer science, robotics, photography, visual arts, woodworking, citizenship and food.

"There’s all kinds of stuff," Cwiklo said.

Emily Green, 18, of South Beloit submitted her photograph "Art in Many Ways."

The photo depicts artwork at the Milwaukee Art Institute. The photo recently was featured at the Beloit Fine Arts Incubator.

Green said the photo was taken in February, and it took her about an hour to edit it. Green also will display a glasswork project and three other art projects.

"(The photo) just shows architecture as an art, and it was taken in an art museum, so it’s like three different forms of art in one photo," she said.

Green has been participating in the Winnebago County Fair for about 12 years. She usually submits 12 to 13 projects, but decided to cut back to four projects this year. Green said participating in the fair gives her an opportunity to improve her photography skills.

"I love learning and growing," Green said. "It’s a nice way for my photography to grow and to keep up with it and photograph different things."

Green, who will be attending the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the fall, has been involved with 4-H since she was in kindergarten.

"I love all the people that I’ve met. Our club started off with a family friend of our neighbors," Green said. "It was weird being in it when I was a kid. I looked up to the older kids. Now there’s no older kids left, so now I’m the older kid, and it’s given me an opportunity to be a role model to the younger kids."

Stephanie Graupner, 16, of Shirland made a jewelry rack out of deer antlers and shells.

"We just found some antlers in the woods by where we live and some shells by the river," Graupner said. "We put them together, so you could hang your earrings and stuff. I usually use deer antlers. I was looking around for other projects, and this happened to come up."

Graupner has participated in the fair since she was 5 years old. During previous years, she has submitted vet science and photography projects. She said participating in the fair gives her an opportunity to meet other 4-H members.

"I like friendly competition, and I like that you can make whatever you want," Graupner said. "There’s not a set guideline that you have to do a certain thing. It’s kind of what you choose. I like that it’s like a second family, and you get to know everyone so well and you get to see everyone express themselves."

Graupner has been involved with 4-H since she was 5. Her siblings were involved with the organization, too.

"I’ve been kind of thrown into 4-H since I was born, so at age 5, I joined 4-H," Graupner said. "I’ve been in it since I can remember."

Sandi Andresen of Rockford has served as a judge for the 4-H projects for seven years. This year, she was judging electricity and robotic projects. Andresen said she was impressed with several of the projects that were submitted this year.

"The electricity projects are very interesting. We had one boy -- I think he’s going down to state -- he built a lamp out of copper connectors that spelled out his first name," Andresen said. "His name is Ben, and the project was really beautiful. He did a fantastic job using different pieces of cooper piping and connectors to spell out his name.

The little man did a fantastic job on it."

Andresen said she enjoys participating in the fair and judging the children’s projects.

"I get so much enjoyment out of the kids’ creativity," Andresen said. "They are incredibly creative and imaginative in working on their projects, sometimes way beyond their years."

Michael Shore of Freeport has been judging 4-H fair projects for about 20 years. He served as a judge for the Stephenson County Fair for about 18 years and the Winnebago County Fair the past two years. Shore was judging baked goods projects this year. He said he enjoyed sampling chocolate cake, sweet rolls and coffeecake.

"I look at the project, the texture, the coloring, flavor and taste," Shore said. "They’ve all been pretty consistent. The kids are great to work with. They seemed to have learned from their projects."

Shore said he has noticed fewer children becoming involved with 4-H in recent years.

"I think as kids have gotten more involved in other activities, our numbers have dropped a lot," Shore said. "Kids have more to pick from. As much as we encourage that 4-H is not just cows and cookies anymore, there are other activities. There’s computer-generated stuff. There’s aerospace. There’s photography. There’s other areas that they can get into. It’s just not a farm kid’s project anymore. Just because you don’t live on a farm, doesn’t mean that you can’t get involved with 4-H."

Cwiklo said 4-H members begin researching their projects in the fall and start working on them during the summer.

"It’s a year-round thing. They learn about their project, they research it, they may attend project workshop days to learn more about their project area," Cwiklo said. "In the summertime, they gear up and start getting (the project) together."

Cwiklo said being involved with 4-H helps members develop life skills.

"It gives them a sense of responsibility, and they’re growing their leadership skills," Cwiklo said. "They’re learning public speaking. They’re getting confidence in portraying their ideas to someone else. They’re getting a sense of community by working on community service projects. They’re learning different life skills that will lead into when they grow up."

For more information about Winnebago County 4-H programs, call 815-986-4357.



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