My sister was old enough to be in 4-H, and they let the little ones like me enter a few contests to be a part of the action while our older brothers and sisters were off showing their chickens.
I was in the Pet-Costume Contest with our goat, and the Longest-Ear Contest with our rabbit. But the most important contest of them all was The Dog with the Longest Tail.
As I paraded our family dog, Curt, out into the arena, I noticed there was only one other dog that could give him any competition. But it would be a close race, indeed. Curt was, in my eyes, greater than Lassie and Rin Tin Tin combined, and I knew I would feel just awful if he was disappointed. I waited anxiously for the judges' decision. And when they called first place, we won!
Over the years, there were lots more entries; my sister honed her cooking skills in Foods, and she always did well with her chickens and pigs. I tended to stay over in the Women's Building, with the Pop-Over Skirt, the "Painting Behind Glass," and the Decorated Cake. I still get knots in my stomach remembering the Dress Revue, the style show all sewing contestants had to participate in. Getting ready for those fairs gave me my first taste and training in the things I would grow up to love to do.
This week is, once again, our County's Youth Fair. I can't imagine how much time the people of our community have put in to the fair over the years, helping kids raise an animal, teaching a giggling group of 8-year-olds to sew, guiding them through record-keeping, and judging cakes. But I do know there are countless people who could trace their skills, hobbies, and career choices right back to the training they got at the fair as kids.
If you are one of the many, many people who are helping out at the Youth Fair, know that your time is making a lasting impression on the kiddos you help.
And know that, in twenty or thirty years, they will pull out their Dog with the Longest Tailribbon, and smile.