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Fair leaves good memories
Bushels of life experience was gained by the numerous youngsters who spent the better half of their year raising their 4-H and FFA animals which they showed at the Stanislaus County Fair last week.

Hughson FFA member Ben Melendez walked out of the judging ring Wednesday morning with a sixth place ribbon for his black-faced crossbreed lamb.

"I asked the judge what I could have changed and he said he loved the lamb but 'you would have been up if it didn't have the wrinkles,'" said Melendez. "He said I could have conditioned him better by running him."

Advice and feedback like Ben received were taken to heart.

Amanda Agnelli, a three-year Westport 4-H member, spent a full week caring for her animal, a market hog she named Gogirl and nicknamed Gogurt which won her a third place ribbon. She was interacting with the hog, not especially looking forward to the end of the fair and parting with her animal which will be slaughtered for its meat.

"I'm having feelings but you've got to look at the reality of it," said the Mae Hensley Junior High School student. "It's kind of the circle of life."

Amanda purchased the hog for $180 and raised and fed it from its original 60 pounds to over 300 pounds. Caring for the animal required feeding it - about $20 per week in feed was required - and keeping its pen clean so neighbors would not balk.

She said she got into 4-H because her father encouraged her since he learned from his boyhood experiences in the club.

A few pens down, Matthew Bailey was engaged in childlike play as he interacted with Amp, his Reserve Champion swine entry, which was playfully nudging him. In the next pen was his Hampshire hog which took intermediate novice.

His parents, Ceres 4-H swine leaders Billy and Anna Bailey, said the fair means a lot to the kids in their group.

"It's a way for kids to learn about agriculture," said Bill Bailey. "Fairs were formed around farms and farm animals. When the fair started 100 years ago there were something like 267,000 pigs in Stanislaus County. Everybody had a pig. That's how you ate and made soap. Every part was used. Now there's only a handful of breeders. For the kids, it's about teaching them responsibility. It's like a girl having a baby, they have to raise and nurture them and it teaches responsibility."

"It's about learning by having fun," added Anna Bailey.

Because there are a lot of 4-H members raising swine locally, the competition is tougher in Turlock every year, said Bill, than at the State Fair.

"That means they learn about winning and losing. It's hard. You don't know. It's tougher here. There's a lot of great breeders in this county and there's a lot of kids raising them."

His oldest son, William Bailey, a Central Valley High School FFA member, had this year's FFA Reserve Champion hampshire. He also placed sixth place overall in swine showmanship.

"He would have been in the top three if the pig didn't give out. When they give out they don't cooperate in the ring."

Without 4-H the Bailey boys would be playing video games or reading books, the Baileys noted. Bill said his boys might be formulating their careers through their fair experiences. Since entering an award-winning John Deere tractor in the 2008 fair, William Bailey has a passion for restoring mechanical devices and vehicles.

Shawn Belerique, also in Ceres 4-H, took third place in the Hampshire class. He learned how to best feed his hog, Hamilton, which was in the same pen as his brother's. Shawn devised a method to separate the two hogs, noting how one would take from the other. After all, they are hogs. Shawn's method worked since he raised Hamilton to weigh the most out of any 4-H hog at 314 pounds.

"All of our kids made market and that's a big deal," noted Anna Bailey.

In the 4-H dairy barn, Westport 4-H member Caroline Lee was on barn duty, scooping up manure from the hay. Undaunted by the dirty job, Caroline shrugged off concerns about the unpleasantness of the job and said she enjoys the Fair.

"It's more a fun experience than hard work," said Lee, who added that she wasn't especially fond of getting up early to be at the fairgrounds by 6:30 a.m.

Her older sister, Jenna Rose Lee, took a slightly less enthusiastic view of cleaning the stalls in the morning saying "they go a lot by morning." Jenna likes the Fair since she gets to represent the dairy industry. The Lees come from a dairy family in the rural Westport area.

Other 4-H successes of the county fair include:

• Adam Sutherby, who took eighth place in 4-H swine;

• Korrine Potts, second in 4-H cross breed swine;

• Kaitlynn Potts, fourth in 4-H York swine;

• Ellen Willming, eighth place in 4-H Hampshire.

• Emily Sutherby, sixth place in 4-H swine.

The Ceres 4-H also received fourth place in Team Penning.

Central Valley High FFA member Christina Crum, won Grand Champion & Reserve Grand Champion in poultry meat pens at the Stanislaus County Fair. The recent CVHS graduate is allowed to show at the fair one last year, this her final and seventh year. Christina started out in 4-H and also shows rabbits and swine and entered plants and vegetables.