Team puts a spit-shine on the fairgrounds
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Taegan Shannon still is a year away from being old enough to be a bona fide 4-H member.
But the 6-year-old Ellis girl was working right alongside her mom at Wednesday's annual cleanup night at the Ellis County Fairgrounds.
Amanda Shannon, a 4-H member for 12 years in the 1980s and '90s while growing up in Ellis, is fair superintendent for the bucket calf division of the 4-H beef program.
And while participants -- both 4-H'ers and animals -- are small, this is big stuff for them.
On Wednesday, Shannon was proudly showing off the area designated for the bucket calves as some of her participants helped move dirt.
Shannon, who had moved from Ellis County for a few years after high school, returned in 2006 and has been helping with the county fair since '09.
Shannon's younger sister, 10-year-old Anna Kuhn from Ellis, now is a member of her former club, the Ellis Sunflowers. And Shannon also plans to get her daughter even more involved, when Taegan turns 7.
"This is my way to give back, and I get to have fun with the little kids," Shannon said. "I absolutely love it. It's really neat to see the next generation of kids coming up."
While Teagan helped her aunt Anna place discarded lumber in a wheel barrow, a trio of young boys worked together on a spot in the bucket calf area.
A pair of 5-year-olds, Mark Grabbe from Schoenchen and Tygh Jaeger from Hays, are Cloverbuds (a program for pre-4-Hers), but 3-year-old Levi Jaeger, still too young for that program, was helping, too -- at least part of the time.
"Definitely a family thing," said Susan Schlichting, Ellis County 4-H Extension agent for 4-H and youth development.
More than 150 people showed up to help dust, clean and get the fairgrounds prepared for next week's annual fair.
"Anywhere else I've ever worked, we've never had this kind of overwhelming response of people helping," said Schlichting, who came to Hays from South Dakota in 2003. "It makes such short work of projects when you have so many people working together."
The older siblings of the aforementioned threesome, Wyatt Grabbe and Amelia Jaeger, already are active 4-H'ers in the Good Hope club at 8 years old, so it's a safe bet those two families will be around for a while.
Wyatt is following in the footsteps of his dad, Matt Grabbe, who also was a member of Good Hope as a youngster. Now, they have mom involved, too. Jennifer Grabbe is in her first year as Cloverbud leader for Good Hope.
"It's been good for him," Jennifer Grabbe said of Wyatt, listing a variety of projects he plans to bring to the fair, including a bucket calf, photography and a Lego construction set.
"We watch the Food Network, and he thinks he wants to make cookies, too," she said. "So we'll see if we can get that done."
The fair gets in full swing Saturday, beginning with the rodeo queen contest at the rodeo arena.
But the first official event is today, the annual fashion revue in the Unrein Family Building at the fairgrounds. Judging begins at 4 p.m., and the public revue is set for 6:30 p.m.