GREENFIELD — Andrew Trabel’s hands trembled ever-so-slightly as he waited for judging to begin. Andrew, 9, built a circuit board with two tiny lights connected with wires to a battery for his electric project.

For his first year in 4-H, he completed the project with some help in learning how to solder from an employee at local utility provider NineStar Connect, he said.

The circuit board is the first project 4-H’ers who choose to compete in the electric project category complete, said electric project superintendent Darrin Couch.

Andrew’s electric project is among thousands that will line the walls and risers of the 4-H Exhibit Hall at the Hancock County Fairgrounds during the week of the 4-H Fair, which kicks off Friday. Hancock County boasts more than 1,000 4-H’ers within its borders, and those youngsters can submit as many projects as they like, which makes for a sizeable showcase in the hall, said 4-H program assistant Shelley Vail.

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Stacking the items just so can be a challenge — but many hands made light work this week. Volunteers and project leaders worked together to display the projects with care.

“This building can hold 5,000 items,” Vail said. “It takes a lot of volunteers.”

Danni Gillon, a senior 4-H’er in the llama and alpaca club, climbed risers covered in white paper in her stocking feet to carefully place art projects, from portraits to stained glass. It’s a stressful job that requires precision, said Gillon, 18. One wrong move could send dozens toppling.

Susan Ellenberg, the assistant crafts superintendent, worked to make sure the ribbons and the names of the youngsters who created the projects were visible before she handed them to Gillon, so each 4-H’er could return to show off their prize.

As many as 600 arts projects lined the risers and walls of her section by the end of the day, Ellenberg said.

Judging for other projects, including livestock and other animals, continues through the week. The dog show, the talent show and the horse and pony show take place today, while pocket pets will be 6 p.m. June 27 and the cat show will be 9 a.m. June 29. 4-H projects will be released from 9 to 11 a.m. July 2.

The projects 4-H’ers can submit vary widely, from collections of cherished items to fine arts projects like paintings or photography.

Meg Schleter, a member of the Cool Clovers 4-H club, submitted a collection of hair bows for the fourth year.

The 17-year-old painted a wooden board to warn, “Fear the bow,” and attached six special bows to the board.

One bow looked like sushi, her favorite food. A couple were black and gold, her school colors at Mt. Vernon High School, and a few more were from cheer camp, she said.

“The point is to exhibit something you enjoy collecting or having,” she said. “These show my passions and my personality.”

By midday Tuesday, the 4-H building had rapidly filled up with the projects painstakingly created by county 4-H’ers. In the fine arts section, a painting of Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker, a villain in the Batman comics and films, leered over the rest of the art.

Parents and grandparents accompanied the young 4-H’ers on Tuesday morning, checking out the competition as they waited for their youngsters to go before the judges.

Erica Long, 13, brought about half a dozen projects, from woodworking to llama craft, with her father, Michael Long.

She started working on her projects for this year last August after the state fair, Erica said.

“I do what I can by myself, but my parents are a great help,” said the member of Sugar Creek 4-H, a fifth year 4-H’er.

Long never participated in 4-H but has enjoyed watching his daughter’s progress over the years. He appreciates how the program allows her to learn new skills and make friends with people from other school districts.

“There’s a lot of opportunities with projects to expand on what they’re learning in school,” he said.

Last year, county 4-H’ers submitted 3,000 non-livestock projects and about 1,300 livestock projects, Couch said.

Four-H’ers learn more skills than raising livestock through these projects, Vail said. Subject areas like genealogy, career exploration or electrical projects provide knowledge to participants that they can use throughout their adult lives.

The electric project category provides an example of this, Couch said. The first five years of projects target specific skills, and then once 4-H’ers have learned the basics, like soldering, they may choose projects aligning with their skills and interests.

“At that point, they could do something like wire light switches in their barn or house,” he said. “We want to get kids to where as adults, they can change a light fixture safely and competently.”

At a glance

The Hancock County 4-H Fair kicks off on Friday, with dozens of events throughout the coming week. Some of the highlights are: 


– 8 a.m. 4-H dog show, 4-H show arena

– 5 p.m. carnival opens

– 6 p.m. Color run, 4-H bowl

– 6 p.m. Talent show, 4-H bowl


– 8 a.m. Horse and pony show, multipurpose arena

– 9 a.m. baby contest, pioneer building

– 5 p.m. pet parade

– 6 p.m. 4-H BBQ contest, extension office parking lot


– 8 a.m. Rabbit show, west arena

– 10:30 a.m. worship service, pioneer building

– 2 p.m. 4-H Fair parade

– 5 p.m. Llama costume class, west arena

– 7 p.m. tractor/truck pull, multipurpose arena

– 8 p.m. 4-H fashion revue, 4-H bowl 

Author photo
Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or