4-H Has Something 4-Everyone :: A Look at the 4-H Exhibits of the 150th County Fair

Written by Kaitlyn Bernarde

Eager 4-H members from across Marathon County exhibited their projects at the 150th Wisconsin Valley Fair on July 31–August 5, 2018, in Marathon Park, Wausau.

Chickens from the Everest Eagles 4-H at the 2018 Wisconsin Valley Fair. (Photo courtesy of Brianna Wright.)

Combined, 725 youth displayed over 11,000 exhibits that they worked on throughout the year as part of 4-H. Projects ranged from the smallest tropical fish to a 1,000-pound beef steer.

Marathon County can send 35 projects from this year’s county fair to compete at the 2019 Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis, Wisconsin.

Various 4-H art exhibits at the 2018 Wisconsin Valley Fair. (Photo courtesy of Brianna Wright.)

Some of the projects exhibited at the fair were judged at pre-fair contests. One of them — the Cake Revue — was held the week before the fair. Fifty youth from around Marathon County exhibited their cupcakes, tiered cakes, and gingerbread houses that they had spent up to 2 weeks working on.

4-H cake exhibit in the shape of the Exhibition Building at Marathon Park. (Photo courtesy of Brianna Wright.)

They were judged on the quality of the decorating. No cakes were eaten during judging (these cakes were disposed of at the end of the fair). No matter the ribbon placing, everyone learned some great baking tips and tricks and were asked to reflect on what they learned or what they would do differently in the future.

One fun fact learned the hard way: If you want to stick fondant to gingerbread, attach it with corn syrup (not water) — it won’t make the gingerbread soft or fragile.

The youth competed for ribbons and money, but took more away than what they probably realized.

Baked goods 4-H exhibits at the 2018 Wisconsin Valley Fair. (Photo courtesy of Brianna Wright.)

I grew up in the Marathon County 4-H program and was a proud member of the Wien Wildcats 4-H Club. Showing my family’s dairy cattle at the county fair was my favorite part of 4-H and one of the highlights of the summer. It wasn’t my favorite because of the ribbons, rides, or cheesecake on a stick (though that is delicious), but because of the relationships created or reignited for 6 days each year. Friendly rivalries, endless card games, free food samples, and balloons made the hot July Saturdays tending to my cattle or putting in long barn-duty shifts seem worth the work.

The week at the Wisconsin Valley Fair always created a great opportunity to educate the general public on animal husbandry, where food comes from, and the time and effort put into completing the 4-H projects.

4-H members resting alongside a livestock exhibit at the 2018 Wisconsin Valley Fair. (Photo courtesy of Brianna Wright.)

When I asked several parents and adult leader volunteers why they encourage youth to show their 4-H projects at the fair, they responded time and again that it teaches responsibility. Whether that means securing Market Animal Show and Sale educational points or polishing a wooden bench or oil painting — it’s the youth’s project. Yes, adults assist, but it is the 4-H member who chooses the project, starts it, perfects it, and exhibits it.

4-H quilting exhibits at the 2018 Wisconsin Valley Fair. (Photo courtesy of Brianna Wright.)

Whether contestants get first or last, they have put themselves out there, tried something new, and learned skills they will take with them into their futures.

4-H horticulture exhibits at the 2018 Wisconsin Valley Fair. (Photo courtesy of Brianna Wright.)

Outside of exhibiting their projects, 4-H adult leaders and youth members participated in other projects throughout the 150th annual fair. To help kick off the sesquicentennial, 7 of the 30 clubs walked in the parade. They also worked shifts in the Potato Booth, while others participated in the Clothing, Knitting, and Crocheting Revue and the Music and Dance Revue in the center of the Exhibition Building. To cap off the week, 35 participants competed in the 2018 Chasin’ Clovers Fun Run around the fairgrounds while learning about 4-H and healthy life choices.

4-H is a positive youth development organization that teaches children and youth — kindergarten through one year after high school — life skills and social skills through hands-on learning. This is completed through adult–youth partnerships, leadership training, and projects in community clubs, camps, fairs, educational trips, and afterschool programs.

No matter the child, there is something for everyone in 4-H — at the club, county, state, national, and/or international level!

I invite you to watch this video to learn more about this year’s 4-H exhibits and participants at the Wisconsin Valley Fair.


Marathon County 4-H is a service of the University of Wisconsin Extension–Cooperative Extension — a partnership between Marathon County and UW–Madison.

For more information about Marathon County 4-H, or to join, visit www.marathon.uwex.edu/4h or call 715-261-1230.

Kaitlyn_BernardeKaitlyn Bernarde

4-H Program Coordinator  |  University of Wisconsin Extension–Cooperative Extension

Julie Bollmann has served as the Program Specialist at the University of Wisconsin Marathon County’s Office of Continuing Education since 2016. Her background had previously included out-of-school programming with the Wausau School District, at which time she coordinated very closely with the Department of Public Instruction on its after-school programs. She is passionate about providing educational opportunities for all members of the Wausau community — whether it’s a College for Kids class or a professional development seminar. She excels in collaborating with Wausau organizations to create, promote, and deliver fulfilling educational and experiential opportunities. In her free time, Julie enjoys outdoor activities in Central Wisconsin, particularly snow-shoeing at Rib Mountain and kayaking on the Rib River and other area waters. Email Julie Bollmann.

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