GREENFIELD — It wasn’t creating the model farm that proved difficult for 4-H’er Grant Friesen; it was getting the project through the door to have it judged.
There was nothing miniature about the 36-square-inch plywood frame he squeezed through the entrance of the county 4-H Exhibit Hall Tuesday morning.
“It’s a challenge to transport,” remarked his mother, Karen Friesen. “It doesn’t fit in my truck.”
The Friesen family was one of dozens that converged on the county fairgrounds this week as project judging kicked off for projects ranging from bicycles to beekeeping.
With about 1,200 4-H’ers participating in the popular youth program this year, it can make for a chaotic couple of days.
The week of judging is equally hectic for 4-H families. Judging usually sparks a healthy amount of bickering over the project details, not to mention rushing around the house trying to get ready, said 4-H mom Jennifer Edwards.
“It wouldn’t be 4-H if not,” she said with a laugh.
Edwards’ three children, ages 14, 11 and 9, have at least 20 projects among them.
“Way too many,” she clarified.
Tuesday, Grant was one who planned ahead for the chaos. When the Eastern Hancock High School junior discovered that loading up his model farm project on its side would result in some lost pieces, for example, he packed spare parts for last-minute repairs.
The ability to plan ahead is one trait the 4-H project aims to instill in its junior participants. Grant said he’s learned a lot from the program over the past eight years of participating.
“It’ll teach you leadership and responsibility,” he said.
Time management is also a must-have quality.
“Still working on that one,” he joked.
While taking the end result of hours of hard work before the critical eye of a judge can be nerve-wracking for some 4-H’ers, Olivia Oberneder said it’s a process she looks forward to each year.
“I actually enjoy it,” said Oberneder, 18, “I just like seeing what the judge has to say.”
Oberneder is finishing her final year in 4-H and admits she had trouble deciding which projects should be her last. She signed up for about a dozen, then completed about half that many.
Tuesday, she presented a watercolor painting and a pencil sketch of Mickey Mouse for judging.
Oberneder, a lifelong Disney fan, said she looked to the Internet for inspiration for her Mickey Mouse rendering.
“I usually just Google different characters and see what pictures pop up,” said Oberneder, who then sketches her own take on the image.
Cindy Newkirk traveled from Rush County to evaluate 4-H’ers’ work Tuesday. Newkirk, an employee of the Hancock County Soil and Water Conservation District, lent her expertise to the home environment and soil and water conservation projects.
Tuesday morning, Newkirk said she was impressed with the work 4-H’ers had done. Whenever she posed a question, the 4-H’er had the answer, she said.
“The knowledge that the kids are coming with is amazing,” she said. “Each year, we seem to get more and more (participants), and you can tell they’re building on their knowledge from last year.”