Anyone who is a fan of the fair at the local and state level knows 4-H exhibits and projects are a varied and integral part of it. Projects whether functional or educational are colorful, tactile and everything in between; limited only by the imagination of their creator. And like most worthwhile efforts, these projects with their degree of expertise, often belie the hours of hard work required to bring them to fruition.
Leslie Brandt of Swea City took a moment at the Emmet County Fair to discuss her 4-H goal of developing and submitting one hundred projects. Leslie who said she's been in 4-H since fifth grade elaborates on how her goal began.
"Well, I wasn't actually thinking about it until last year, or like the fall I was applying for some 4-H scholarships and had to count up my fair entries and realized I was at 82 projects," she said. "I thought I'd try to make it to a hundred this year. So, it was a pretty recent goal.
Leslie Brandt displays her sewn top project.
Photo by Angela Olney
"I took 18 (projects) this year to make it come out to a hundred." She says she knows of no one else with this goal and there's nothing magical about the number 100, but instead offers, "It just sounded like a good number-a great way to finish the 4-H year."
With that many projects in development simultaneously, one wonders if any project in particular proved to be more time-intensive than the rest.
"A big part of the 4-H project is the write-up and how you talk to the judge about it, so, I spend a pretty good chunk of my time working on the write-up, making sure there were details and had the design elements and principles in there."
Leslie speaks more to a specific project, which was time-consuming. "I do some sewing projects and I was working on the chiffon top, so (it was) kind of hard to sew, (it was) pretty slippery material, so that took some time."
Equally, with the sheer number of projects involved it seems quite plausible the inspiration to effect interesting and unique ideas year after year may be hard to come by. Leslie explains how she comes upon her ideas.
"The projects just kind of talk to me whether I see them on-line or at a craft store or something.," she said. "Maybe in March I'm kind of worried about what I'm going to take, but I get it all figured out in time for the fair."
To give an idea of the diversity of the projects Leslie submitted listed a majority of them.
"I took five pictures this year. I have a African violet that goes into the horticulture class, I brought a purchase dress, a sewn top, and a sewn reversible bag. I did two canvas art designs, I did the book safe, I did two child development projects-one is homemade bubbles, the other is word wheels-I brought a scrapbook that I made, a party planning box."
Pausing for a moment she said, "Oh, I brought a feather cake, too." Leslie describes her technique in making one of her projects, the book safe, as well as its eco-friendly characteristic "This year I made a book safe where I took a discarded book and hollowed out the center and so made it into a box for keepsakes or special treasures. I think that was really the only recycled thing."
Though Leslie has increased the number and range of project submissions over time, saying of her first year in 4-H ,"I think it was maybe five or seven. It wasn't too many," she still recalls the importance of her early years in 4-H. Leslie says of the intervening years that have led up to today, "When I was in fifth grade I had one of my projects selected to be a State Fair alternate and every year since then, so sixth grade through 12th grade, I've had at least one project go to the State Fair. So, that's a really great honor to have my projects chosen and it's lots of fun to go down and see what kind of ribbons they got us at State Fair."
Asked to summarize her 4-H experience, Leslie said, "I've learned a lot, there's learning through all the projects you do, you get to meet new people, I went on a CWF trip to Washington, D.C., so I got to learn about the Nation's capital and how the government works, there's lots of workshops and day camps, so lots of learning in 4-H." Speaking further to her time in 4-H Leslie said, "I would definitely say give it a try, there's something for everyone here, there's the livestock, there's sewing, baking, wood-working, animal science, there's tons of workshops. (There are) day camps, and trips that you can go on, so a great experience and I would definitely recommend it."
Leslie, who has been her club's historian for the last four years, is in County Council, is this year's Emmet County Fair Princess and was a past member of the intermediate County Council; is asked what she would say to others about participating in 4-H.
"I would just say be involved, get in as many activities and like club projects you can, go out for County Council, try the Fair queen," she said. "4-H is what you make of it and there's plenty of opportunities for you, just go ahead, try them all."
And as to how she foresees her future affiliation with 4-H she said, "I think so, I think it'd be fun to come back and volunteer with the fair and help out with things."
Speaking to one of her 100 projects that stands out from the rest Leslie perhaps gives voice to one of the most special aspects of the 4-H experiencethat of the 4-H family bringing the family together and creating lasting memories for generations to come.
"One particular project I'd have to say was I made Danish puffs last year, and that's the recipe my Grandma always makes," Leslie said. "So she helped me out the first time I made it and showed me her tips and tricks, so that was really special to be able to make it with her."