Miss 4-H prepares for final ‘big’ fair
The upcoming Johnson County Fair will be something of rite of passage for Alyssa King.
The De Soto Pioneer 4-H Club has been central to King's life. She has held every office in the club several times, including her current tenure as president. Alyssa is also Johnson County 4-H president and current county 4-H queen.
"It's been a great part of my life," she said. "The education is really what my parents have pushed for. A lot of people think it's about what color of ribbon you get. It's really not, it's about how much you learned."
The education has been a family affair, Alyssa's mother Denise King said. It started 18 years ago, when Denise and her husband, David, moved from Overland Park to a 10-acre "hobby farm" on 95th Street. Before the move, the family was more comfortable with pavement than pastures, Denise said.
"We were city kids," she said.
To learn more about livestock, the couple encouraged their oldest daughter, Brianna, 20, to join 4-H 13 years ago.
The family of agricultural novices learned enough to become a source of expertise in at least one area. When the Pioneer 4-H Club had its annual pre-fair project tour Sunday, the stop at the Kings included not only Alyssa's presentation of her project but those of three other club members who keep their sheep there.
"When we started, we didn't know anything about sheep," Alyssa said. "Now we're the ones helping others with their projects.
"I showed cattle for about four or five years, but they are so much work. That wasn't really what we were strong in. We knew a lot about sheep. I guess we just loved them more."
Alyssa knows what the judges will be looking for in the seven sheep in judged market and showmanship competitions at the county fair.
"Showmanship is all about how well your animal works with you," she said. "In the spring I did really well with this spring I did really well with this one lamb, so I kept working with him and he just gets better and better."
Market lamb competitions are about the length of loin and musculature, Alyssa said.
Although she will pass her Miss 4-H crown on to another young woman this week, the fair will keep her busy. In addition to her sheep, Alyssa will show two swine, two cured hams, and "I don't know how many crafts" during the busy week.
"It's the best time though," she said. "You get to hang out with all the friends you meet this year and all the fiends you've meet in past years. The bonus is you get to be with your family as well."
At this time next year, Alyssa will be a De Soto High School graduate preparing for her first year in college. Alyssa said she would probably restrict her fair projects to sheep.
"Well, actually since I'm only 16, and I can go until I'm 19," she said. "But this will be my last big one (fair)."
But Alyssa predicted the King family would remain a mainstay in the Pioneer 4-H Club and in the local sheep scene.
"I think my mom will always have a couple of sheep, because she's become so attached to them," she said. "I think she'll stay with the 4-H, helping with the kids."