4-H stands for head, hands, heart, and health. The pledge is: "I pledge my Head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living; for my club, my community, my country and my world."
No rest for these kids when school gets out. From June through August, every Monday evening is a work night. Small groups of 4-H members, ranging in age from 8 to 18 years old, work together to clean up and maintain the 4-H fairgrounds. For the most part, we will rake the fairgrounds; some of the older members will help repaint the buildings that need it, and others will assist by using a leaf blower. This annual task is too big an undertaking for just one 4-H Club. There are many other clubs participating in this effort. There are several other horse clubs as well as dog clubs, cattle clubs, swine clubs, goat clubs, sheep clubs, photography clubs, craft clubs and many, many more. Regardless of how hard everyone is working, we all like going because our friends are there to work as well. Each club pitches in with this effort because many hands make light work.
Since the grounds are very big it takes a while to clean them, but everyone is proud of their work when they are done. The fairgrounds have been around since 1908. A quick growing activity was the 4-H horse project, which made its first appearance in Massachusetts in 1956. Since then, the fair has gotten bigger and better every year.
My club, The Flying Change 4-H Equestrians, has been participating in the local 4-H Fair for five years.
This year, our club alone has 19 members. Some of them own a horse, some lease, and some borrow a horse. Either way, every member is very willing to work hard throughout the year taking riding lessons, learning more and more about caring for their animal, in hopes that this will all be put to good use during August at the annual Middlesex County 4-H Fair in Westford.
Throughout the year, we do a lot of preparation including fundraising, visual presentations, area horse shows, community service, and much more! During the winter, our county 4-H council offers various activities such as "The Winter Forum" (a day of workshops, and loads of fun), "Horse Bowl Day" (an Equestrian knowledge competition), "Hippology" (testing of Equine knowledge), and "Horse Judging" (examining and ranking horses).
The weeks leading up to the fair are the busiest because everyone is practicing horse showmanship, riding and preparing for fun games. The day before the fair is when everyone will groom, and bathe their horse. Then the braiding begins. Braiding can take up to 2 hours depending on the willingness of the horse and the talent of the horseman. When completed, riders will clean their tack (saddles and bridles) and most horses will graze until it is time to load up and head out to the fairgrounds. Upon arrival, horses will be set up with food, water, and hay in their pens. While the horses get accustomed to their new, temporary living quarters, riders will set up their tents or hammocks (hammocks are for the older riders). Most of the equestrian club members stay overnight in tents with their horses only a few feet away. Every morning at 6 a.m. the club members wake up to feed, water, walk, groom, and hang out with their horses. For many of the riders this is the only time they will be able to sit and talk with their horses before the day's events begin, because they will be busy "showing" for the majority of the next seven hours. The horses get a break after every class for water and hay. During that time, riders will refuel and can watch their friends compete.
Saturday is a big day for the 4-H members because it is the "main day." A lot of the showing and judging takes place. Most of the Gymkhana (games) classes for the horse riders happen on Saturday. A delicious chicken barbeque dinner, a great dance party and let's not forget prank night, are all on Saturday as well.
Each individual day there are countless numbers of activities that families can take part in and/or join in with hands on interaction. Some of these activities include pony rides, face painting, police dog presentations, and other fun and physical activities, you, your kids and family of all ages will love. During the fair you can go to the rabbit and cavies where you can pet a rabbit or a guinea pig. Throughout the day, they will have rabbit races and you could win a prize. There is also an exotic animal exhibit were you can see and touch some really cool animals. Be sure to visit the static building were you can view art projects, creative writing, displays, needlework, photos, flowers, fruits and vegetables. And let's remember the chance to win some great raffle prizes.
The fair is open to the public Aug. 24-26. Visit www.4hmiddlesexfair.org for more information.