GREENFIELD — Five-year-old Lewis Fairchild could hardly contain his excitement when introducing his two pet rats — Benny and Jet — at the Hancock County 4-H Fair on Monday night.
The Fortville boy was among a handful of kids who brought their pint-size companions to the 4-H Pocket Pets competition, where they showed off their pets to a judge.
“I love them because they’re so cute, and they love to climb,” said Lewis, who grinned widely as Benny ran playfully up his arm.
Pocket Pets judge Rob Matt, who has been judging the event for the past seven or eight years, loves to see the enthusiasm in kids like Lewis, who delight in caring for smaller pets like rats, hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs.
The pint-size pet contest gives kids a chance to show off their knowledge and ability to care for small animals, especially those who don’t have access to rabbits, chickens or other livestock that’s commonly shown at the fair.
“We’ve even seen some snakes, lizards, ferrets and turtles,” said Matt, who quizzed each of the kids about their individual pets on Monday.
To score a blue ribbon, kids need to demonstrate the ability to care for their pets and share some facts about them. Each 4-H’er is required to produce a booklet containing facts about their animal’s species.
Fourteen-year-old Darla Holzhausen prepared a binder of facts and information about guinea pigs when she showed her white guinea pig, Smores.
One page shared fun facts about the species, like the fact they have an average life expectancy of three to five years, and weigh one to three pounds.
“They’re also never found in the wild,” said Darla, who lives in McCordsville.
Molly Ebbert had a similar book of facts about her guinea pig, Fidget, who was aptly named for the way he shakes and fidgets when being held. “He’s really fun to play with,” said the 10-year-old, who lives in Fountaintown.
She first entered the Pocket Pets contest two years ago with her first guinea pig, Gidget, who died last year. Her mom, Theresa Ebbert, said caring for the animals has helped teach her daughter responsibility.
“She cleans its cage and helps give him a bath in the sink. It’s been good for her,” her mom said.
Seven-year-old Kourtney Fry said she’s learned a lot by caring for her pet guinea pig, Sparkles.
“I love playing with her because she’s super adorable,” said the Greenfield girl, who made a poster with pictures showing all about Sparkles, from the food she eats to the cage where she lives.
“My cousin and I like to make obstacles and houses for her,” she said.
Raven Bates said she’s learned a lot by taking care of her pet gerbil, Fierce.
“I love playing around with him. It’s fun to let him loose in the hallway and watch him run,” said Raven, 11, who will be a sixth-grader at New Palestine Intermediate School.
Showing her pet at the fair seemed like a fun way to take part in 4-H this year. “Being in 4-H gives me an opportunity to meet new people and do fun projects,” she said.
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The schedule has changed for some events at the Hancock County 4-H Fair as a result of the storms that hit the county on Friday night, June 18.
The Horse & Pony Show now will take place at 6:30 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday, June 25 and 26 at the Multipurpose Arena.
The 4-H BBQ Contest now will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot of the Purdue Extension Hancock County offices.
The Demolition Derby/Autocross event, which had been scheduled for Friday at the Multipurpose Arena, has been canceled.