4-H Fair: Looking back on 50 years

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Jasper High School senior Melanie Patterson has been participating in 4-H since she was in 3rd grade. For this year's fair, she is submitting 44 projects ranging from scrapbooking to genealogy. Patterson printed out photos from her trip to New York City this past December as well as ticket stubs to use in her scrapbook. "Scrapbooking is nice because you can go back look at the pictures and recapture the memories," Patterson said. "There's more to it than sticking photos into an album."



BRETZVILLE — The 2017 Dubois County 4-H Fair is celebrating its 50th anniversary at the fairgrounds in Bretzville next week, July 17 to 22. The golden anniversary will be commemorated by celebrating the past, the present and the future, as well as the people involved in the fair.

On Monday the fair will open by taking everyone back to the event’s beginning. At 5 p.m. during the opening ceremony, a time capsule buried 25 years ago will be presented on the free stage adjacent to the Clover Pavilion. From 6 to 9 p.m., an exhibit called “50 Quilts for 50 Years” will be on display in the Clover Pavilion.

The week’s schedule is full to the brim with events. Most are returning spectacles, such as the animal shows and the carnival rides. But this year will also give locals some new twists. On Thursday on the free stage, Grupo Guanaco will perform Latin music for the first time at the fair. On Tuesday, a caricature artist will draw whimsical portraits of guests. Anyone who decides to attend the demolition derby on July 22 will also find themselves at a wedding for Greg (Bubba) Ubelhor and Cheyenne Harris, local demolition derby professionals.

New additions are always a thrill, but the most essential elements to a successful fair are the 4-H members themselves and the projects they bring. Like always, the barns this year will be filled with horses, cows, goats, pigs, chickens and much more. And the project buildings will contain rows and rows of local kids’ hard work.

Calling the fair hard work is an understatement for someone like 17-year-old Melanie Patterson. This year, the Jasper High School senior is bringing 44 projects to the fair. Yes, 44.

“It actually started out when my older sister was in 4-H, she wanted to do as many projects as she could,” Melanie said. “I just thought it would be cool to just kind of try and do, see what projects were out there.” Melanie’s sister, Madeline, 21, currently attends the University of Southern Indiana. “She more or less kind of inspired me to do it,” Melanie said.

This is Melanie’s ninth year submitting projects, and 44 is also the largest number of projects she’s taken in a single year. Last year she brought around 20. She’s not sure what her career total is and isn’t sure what it will end up being after her final fair next summer. This year, Hailey Thayer will complete her 10-year 4-H career with 150 total projects submitted. She holds the record for the most submitted projects for this graduating class. Melanie is not really shooting for a project record like Thayer just accomplished, she just wants to do all she can.

Melanie’s projects include things such as a scrapbook and a restored statue. She’s been working on everything since May, following a schedule she made herself. So far, she says she’s only had to spend $50 on materials for all the projects, and that’s mainly because she decided to treat herself to some nice scrapbook paper.

Half the struggle of creating a project for the fair is being creative enough to stand out to judges. Forty-four different ideas seems like a daunting task, but not for Melanie. She’s a member of theater, choir and color guard at Jasper. She hopes to go to Indiana University next fall after she graduates and plans to major in musical theater. Creativity is kind of her thing.

Melanie is not the only 4-H member aiming to overachieve at the fair this year. Grace Weigel, a 9-year-old in her first year of 4-H, is taking 17 projects.

“I asked if she was sure she wanted to take that many ... she wanted to do more than that,” Grace’s mother, Doris, said. “I told her if she decides, she had to commit to them and follow through.”

And follow through she has. Besides a few projects that require parental guidance, Grace has completed her projects by herself. The large workload has allowed the Huntingburg girl to find new hobbies and has taught her how to figure things out on her own, Doris says. But, there are some projects she hasn’t been fond of.

“Rug hooking isn’t that fun because it’s a little hard for me to pull the thread through,” Grace said.

Both Grace and Melanie are using 4-H to grow and become more responsible people. For the last 50 years, the 4-H Fair in Bretzville has helped thousands of kids do the same.


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