Fifteen-year-old Salinan Shelby Stolzenburg has been a member of 4-H for the past eight years.
Currently a member of the Willing Workers 4-H club in Salina, Stolzenburg said the professional youth and mentoring organization has helped her to become a better public speaker, meet new people and gain new perspectives.
This year, for the eighth consecutive year, she is participating in the Tri-Rivers Fair in Salina, aimed at showcasing the talents of Saline and Ottawa Counties 4-H students.
During last year’s festival, Stolzenburg won champion in style revue and in construction for a blue shirt she created.
This year, she has won reserve champion for modeling for fashion revue; reserve champion for her chocolate cake; her dog Bear, a black lab, took home champion for obedience; and she entered a dress with pockets, a belt and pleats with a hidden zipper into the clothing competition.
Stolzenburg is one of 354 Saline and Ottawa Counties 4-H students — 250 of whom are competing at the fair — composed of eight 4-H clubs, according to 4-H agent Sarah Maass, with Kansas State University Research and Extension.
Wednesday kicked off the fair, which featured livestock weigh-ins, judging and the poultry and bucket calf shows.
Maass said the livestock show will kick off Thursday and the horse show on Friday.
“The importance of this fair is that these kids work on these projects year-round,” Maass said. “They come into these competitions, get some feedback and master the projects they are a part of. If people have the opportunity, they should come out and see what our youth have done. Our future is looking bright.”
A new experience
Amber Fouard, president of the Tri-Rivers Fair board, said the board placed a high emphasis on bringing something new to the fair.
“We always wonder, ‘How can we continue to make it (fair) different every year, and what can we do differently to get different audiences of people here.' ” she said.
Fouard said that was the idea behind bringing country music singer and songwriter Deana Carter to this year’s fair.
Carter’s performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Tri-Rivers Stadium.
Maass said tickets are still on sale for $9.99 at ticketmaster.com. Tickets will also be available at the gate for $15.
Fouard said she hopes everyone will come out to Friday’s show, but also pay attention to the youth projects.
“A lot of great kids are doing some amazing things,” she said. “This is an opportunity to have the kids shine. They are our future business leaders and everyone should take notice.”
The petting zoo
Each year, students from Ell-Saline High School’s FFA organization, or Future Farmers of America, volunteer to run the fair’s petting zoo area.
This year, 20 students will work the petting zoo, which will feature more than 30 animals including steer, mules, ponies, donkeys, pigs and more.
Lee Weis, the agricultural science and FFA advisor at Ell-Saline, said the fair gives his students an opportunity for growth.
“They start organizing this in July and it really helps them with their public speaking skills, organizational skills and responsibility since they’re in charge of feeding, cleaning and providing water to the animals,” he said. “Not all the kids come from farming backgrounds either, so it's an opportunity for them to put what they’ve learned in food science and plant and animals science to the test and educate others.”
Rising Ell-Saline senior and FFA member Owen Bradley, who is working the petting zoo for the fourth year, said he lives on his family’s Came Farm and loves the opportunity to educate others about animals and the food they eat.
“I like giving back to the community, because there are so many kids and people who don’t know about farming, the animals or what they eat,” he said. “I love showing and telling them about the different animals and what makes them all unique.”