Fair is more than a good time to some
For most kids the county fair is nothing more than a good time one last hurrah before starting another school year.
The Midway rides, the corn dogs and the exhibits all seem larger than life to a lot of young people.
For two DeSoto teens, however, this year's Johnson County Fair provided an opportunity to share what they've learned in their 4-H clubs with kid a few years younger than themselves.
Stephanie Bender and Cassie Gregg spent their day Friday at the Gardner fairgrounds, teaching area children about the Johnson County 4-H club.
They helped the area YMCA members milk a goat. They painted rainbows and flowers on youngsters' faces and they encouraged them to be a part of the educational club.
According to Bender, 4-H memberships has declined over the past several years. She and a group of other club members from across the county joined together as club ambassadors to try and reverse that trend.
"We're just spending time with them and giving them information about how to join," she said. "The 4-H population has been going down and we had less entries in the fair this year than last year."
The only reason she could give for the decrease in members was that people had the wrong idea of what 4-H was all about, Bender said.
"I think a lot of people think it's just about raising animals," she said. "That's a part of it, but there's a lot more to it than that."
That was the message she and Gregg gave to the youngsters as they spent the afternoon showing them around the fair. Gregg's not an official ambassador, but she was a spokesman for the club on Friday.
"I'm just here helping out," she said. "I have so much fun with 4-H and I want other people to join."
Gregg said she was a good example of someone who enjoys 4-H without owning a farm animal.
"This is my second year in the club. Originally, I joined because I wanted to get a horse, but my mom changed my mind about that," she said. "There's a lot to do. Last year we had a day camp and we get to make new friends from all over the county."
Bender said the list of projects available to 4-H members is a long one.
"There are hundreds of things you can do besides animals," she said. "You can do foods where you learn to cook, or crafts, or rocketing. Really anything you can think of."
The day of fun made an impression on 8-year-old Danielle Mitchell of the Olathe YMCA.
"I want to join. It's fun and it's cool," she said.
Besides learning about new things, Bender said 4-H has helped prepare her for the bigger things in life.
"You learn how to work together and you learn that with teamwork, you can get anything done," she said. "It teaches you to take responsibility because if you're cooking, you have to clean up afterward and if you start a project, you have to stay with it until you finish it."
Both girls said they plan to continue with 4-H through their high school years. According to Gregg, it just makes good sense.
"It keeps me busy and it keeps me out of trouble," she said.