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First-year 4-H'er from Ellis sets the bar high





It will be hard for Landon Dinkel to top the success of his first official year in 4-H.

But the 8-year-old Ellis boy will be back to give it a try -- at next year's Ellis County Fair.

For now, he thoroughly is enjoying his time at the Ellis County Fairgrounds in Hays this week.

After a year of gathering a lot of green participation ribbons as a Cloverbud -- a program for 5- and 6-year-olds -- Landon's inaugural year of participation with the big guys in the Ellis Sunflowers club has been one to remember.

Hours after receiving a purple ribbon on his 4-H geology project Tuesday afternoon, Landon joined his dad, Doug Dinkel, and his younger brother, 6-year-old Lucas, in claiming first place in the cow milking contest. With that victory came a traveling trophy almost as tall as his younger brother.

"I didn't think we were going to win because we had just this much in the bucket," Landon said, holding his hand low to signify just a few inches.

But the milk is measured by weight, and the "Cowboys" team won first place among the 12 teams with 5.6 pounds of milk.

"We didn't cheat either -- one guy put rocks in his bucket," Landon said of one team that jokingly tried to slip one past the judges.

Landon also received blue ribbons on his rocketry and photography projects Tuesday.

Then the next night, he finishing second in the 8-year-old division of the annual pedal tractor pull on the midway to qualify him for the Kansas State Fair in September.

Purple ribbons usually are a symbol of state-qualifying status in 4-H projects, too, but Landon's first-year project featured 15 rocks for his geology project, and the state-qualifying number is 30.

"We thought for his first year, 15 was plenty," said his mother, Alison, who added this isn't the first year Landon has qualified for state in the pedal pull competition.

"He got second a couple of years ago (at the Ellis County Fair), too, but we felt he was too young to compete at state," she said.

Not anymore.

"Well, I guess we're probably going to go to the state fair this year," Landon's mom said.