Making new friends a highlight of fair
Chatting on the phone for hours at a time about the latest fashion, who's dating who and what movie is coming out next weekend while painting her toenails and smacking her gum loudly between syllables.
This is the cliche of most teenage girls in America today.
However, this cliche doesn't fit 15-year-old Katie and 13-year-old Kelly Yunghans. And their parents are proud of that.
Matt and Bonnie Yunghans entered their daughters into their local 4-H chapter, Livewire, as soon as they were old enough to participate in their first meeting. That was at age 7 when the room was filled with dozens of squirming first- and second-graders.
Now, Katie, 15, is president of her 4-H group. This means that she has control over the meeting along with the other elected officials of her age group. Katie works hard to memorize the procedure of the meetings and Kelly is very involved in her group as well.
This is something that Bonnie Yunghans has always appreciated about 4-H.
"It impressed me that it was kids running it and kids are making decisions," she said.
Bonnie enjoyed the idea so much that she has also taken part in 4-H by becoming a group leader. She is one of three in their area.
Livewire, the 4-H group the Younghans attend, meets monthly in a small Methodist church, just up the road from where the family lives. The securing of this meeting place as well as the order of the meetings, and every other decision that the group makes, are the responsibility of the youths in the group.
"The kids handle the business in the meetings, but we're there to help them out," Bonnie Younghans said.
The three adult leaders of Livewire are there to let the youths know what is coming up as far as competitions or other general activities. Bonnie Younghans is a representative between Livewire and the various councils that the 4-H groups report to.
Matt Yunghans, the girls' father, is a part of one of these councils. He is a member of the extension council, a group of elected officials who meet once a month to go over the business of the last month. He also is vice president of the extension council's executive board.
Matt oversees the agricultural aspect while other members take care of the family and consumer science and 4-H aspects of life on the farm.
If someone has a question about why a tree is dying or how to care for a sick animal they could call the extension council and they would be referred to someone such as Matt. His job is to help figure out the best way to handle such problems. If he doesn't know the answer he consults specialists.
"Anyone who has a question in the area is welcome to call," he said.
That is one of the things that the family likes best about 4-H. They never have to look too far for assistance.
"There is always someone willing to help," Bonnie said.
Whenever the girls have a question about one of the numerous projects that they are working on they can call any number of people in their 4-H community for help.
Katie and Kelly participate in numerous competitions. They both have cattle that they have raised since birth to compete in the beef competition. Katie has a steer and a heifer and Kelly has two steers and a heifer. Each knows the points of a good beef cow and each takes proper care of their steers and heifers to ensure that they become good beef cows.
Somewhere between feeding, brushing, walking and bathing their cattle every day, the girls find time to work on their sewing and buymanship skills.
The girls have each made prize-winning wool outfits for various competitions as well as other dresses and pajama pants.
The buymanship aspect is where the girls get to show off their "buying power." The judges look at price and sensibility in the choices the contestants make in their clothing buys.
Kelly won reserve champion last year in the Plant Science division for her entries of soybeans, corn, wheat and other crops from her garden.
Katie won champion overall in the Crafts division for a scarecrow made out of flower pots. And although she hasn't entered anything into competition yet, she has become very good at carpentry. She has made a cabinet and a mirror that are displayed proudly in the family's home.
The girls are hard at work preparing for the upcoming Leavenworth County Fair, at the fairgrounds in Tonganoxie. They both have entries in beef and sewing, as well as other divisions this year.
Although the most important aspect of going to the fair is the competitions, the family's favorite parts come after the hard work is over.
Kelly says she enjoys meeting new friends at the fair. And everyone agrees. While the fair is going on, the Yunghans spend everyday from early in the morning until late at night at the fair grounds.
"We come home to sleep," Bonnie said, "but we live at the fair."
The highlight of the fair for the family is the last day when all those new friends have a water fight.
"We get to act like kids again," Matt said.
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