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At Valley County Fair

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William Skibinski, his sister, Lizzy (right) and Jayden Thompson (center) are busy getting their lambs ready to show. 

By Kate Wolf
   The Valley County Fair is fast approaching, 4-H members are busy getting projects completed and livestock ready for their big day. T-shirts emblazoned with the 4-H logo, blue jeans and boots get laid out and polished up so competitors will look their finest. The mantra “Control your animal, eyes on the judge at all times, and don’t forget to smile” is whispered like a prayer among competitors in livestock stalls preparing the animals they have worked so hard to tame, groom, break to lead with a halter, set up in the proper stance for judging, with answers to any questions the judge might ask locked firmly in their heads. It’s fun and exciting and just a little bit terrifying all at the same time….and it’s hard work. Unless they’ve been involved in 4-H and FFA, most people have no idea just how much hard work goes into preparing for a county fair.
   There are 6.5 million 4-H members from ages 5-21 across the U.S. with 140,000 in Nebraska alone. Nebraska 4-H is administered primarily on a local level by county-based Extension faculty and staff. The Extension office in Ord also administers 4-H in Greeley, Howard, and Sherman counties as well.
   Dawn Skibinski, a devoted “4-H Mom” and former club leader commented, “Anybody considering being a 4-H leader, I’d say ‘Just Do It!’ because, over the years, you get to see what members can achieve. Our Extension staff is amazing. Penny Root and Doug Anderson are both vital to the education component, and they have four fairs to manage!”
   According to Skibinski, the best qualities of a 4-H leader are: Organizational skills, a willingness to listen to the kids, build those relationships, and just see the things that others may not notice.” 
   In addition, she added, “You have to be okay with a little bit of chaos. Even if you’re not a leader, you can still volunteer in areas where you have expertise.” On Entry Day, for example, extra hands are always appreciated.
  Dawn Skibinski and her husband, Jayme, are both from a farming background. He is Service Manager at AKRS John Deere dealership in Ord, while she works full-time at Agland. The family also raises sheep and sells club lambs to other 4-H competitors. Jayme went on to serve on the 4-H Council. It’s easy to see that 4-H played a big role, not only in their youth, but with their futures in agri-business.
  “Jayme and I both grew up showing (in the ring),” Dawn explained. “It was actually when we had our first date.” 
   Both were heavy into the livestock end of things and appreciated the significant role 4-H had played in their own lives, and now the lives of their children. The couple have three children: Megan who is 24 years old and the Voc-Ag educator in Arcadia; William who is 18 and Lizzy age 14. Over the years, Dawn remarked that the family practically lived out in the barn working with the animals.
   “It takes all of us,” she continued. “Jayme handles the nutrition, which can be complicated. But it’s really great to see the kid’s accomplishments. People don’t realize how much work is involved. Kids learn to organize their own schedules, especially with livestock because, no matter what, those animals need to be fed. It teaches them responsibility and it’s a great family activity.”
   When individual projects are selected, the kids pour over the project possibilities with the same enthusiasm as we used to devote to the Sears-Roebuck Christmas catalog….for those old enough to remember that massive book. They get to choose projects that interest them each year and that contribute to their learning experience.
   The 4-H motto is “To make the best better” and it is towards this goal that 4-H constantly strives. They believe in the power of young people to become true leaders. Members of 4-H develop confidence, learn to work well with others, endure through many challenges, and stick to a job until it’s successfully completed. In 4-H, they realize that true leaders are not born, they are grown….they learn by doing.
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