Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

July 30, 2013

I was a 10-year 4-H member

By Lindsay Eckert
Tribune lifestyle editor

Kokomo — County fairs may be known for fried food, people watching – hello, people of the county fair and goodbye, people of Wal-Mart – and rides that move from side to side. But, for me, county fairs take a different type of feeling. Walking into a county fair is a feeling of nostalgia; a favorite season of memories.

The first time I heard about 4-H someone came to talk at my school. She brought a goat with her, so as an animal-lover, my attention was hooked – unlike it was with math. I still remember that little pygmy goat that started it all.

Immediately after, I went home to my mom and said, “I want to do 4-H.”

And so it started, my very first project was as a “4-H mini.” I sewed a cat face from a pattern with buttons I could pick – HOT PINK SEQUINS BUTTONS?! Yes, please!  I did a craft collection of Trolls and a really fancy portrait of Mickey Mouse made of… beans. That’s right; kidney beans, black beans, white beans, every bean you could think of was positioned to illustrate that Mouseketeer. It should’ve been entitled: “Oh, Mickey you’re so fine fiber.” I’m sure I settled on something a 7-year-old would settle on: I love Mickey. Dull, I know. But, it was a picture of beans. What do you expect?

But, it was the early days of silly projects that started a learning experience I still appreciate. I learned to weld, I learned to do woodworking projects, I learned how to fail tremendously at the consumer clothing project every single year – “Participation ribbon goes to Lindsay Eckert.” I was cursed by the consumer clothing gods, I tell you. Ironically, this always appeared to be the simplest project. At first glance: Shop, find an outfit for a great buy, model it for judges and woo hoo! A blue ribbon. My consumer clothing tale never played out that way.

But, the thing is I learned to win. I learned to fail. I learned to learn from mistakes. I also learned that sometimes you repeat mistakes; because that’s what people do sometimes – or that’s just my rationalization for that long line of participation ribbons from consumer clothing. Regardless, I learned something every year and I grew from that.

I put in hours of practicing with my pony, Snowy, leading up to shows – when you’re passionate about something hours seem like minutes; this was always true of my moments with him. I wrote some of my favorite things I’ve ever written for my public speaking competitions in 4-H.  I overcommitted with projects sometimes. I procrastinated some times. Other times I did things early and I proudly checked of check lists far before they were due. I wrote up talking points for the judges about my projects. I was preparing for the world at age 10 and I didn’t even know it.

So, as I browse through the fairs and I see little kids making projects out of macaroni or growing vegetables and displaying them on a white plate, I’ll smile just as much for the participation ribbons as I do the grand champions. Either way they’re learning. And you never know, that participation ribbon may just be a grand champion the next year. Unless you’re name is Lindsay Eckert and you’re participating in consumer clothing; that participation ribbon is alllll yours, honey.

In all seriousness though, a huge thank you to the 4-H organization for inspiring children to learn and instilling a high value of self-respect in our future generations. I was blessed to do well in 4-H, the hard work and life lessons paid off most years. But, I don’t even know where some of those ribbons are. The moments I experienced, however, never leave. They stay right in my back pocket.

[friday] editor/ 10-year 4-H member

Lindsay Eckert