BUCYRUS — Participating in the Crawford County Junior Fair has become an annual tradition for the Kent family from Galion.
Mandy Kent was a 4-H exhibitor in her youth, following in the footsteps of her mother, Linda Gulick, who showed horses. Now, all three of Mandy’s children — Cooper, age 15, Carly, age 13, Colby, age 9 — are active in the youth organization founded by educator A.B. Graham in 1902 in Clark County, Ohio.
Growing up inside Galion city limits presented some obstacles to the types of projects she was able to present, but she made adjustments to expand her experience, Mandy said
“It was tough. I took a lot of the Department 1 projects, too,” said Mandy, who is co-advisor of the Galion Blue Ribbon Achievers 4-H Club based in Galion. TJ Link, another 4-H mom, is the club’s other advisor.
“But I was fortunate because my parents allowed me to lease some space and I did take sheep a couple of years,” she said. “And I had rabbits in my backyard. So I was able to come and frequent the fair just like my kids are getting to do.”
Mandy said 4-H became her passion.
“I loved it,” she said. “I was a 4-H camp counselor all four years in high school. If I could’ve made a living out of being a 4-H camp counselor, I probably would’ve done that.”
Husband Eric Kent wasn’t a 4-H exhibitor in his youth, Mandy said, but she knew him then and he knew that she was passionate about it.
“He was around when I was in 4-H so he knew what he was getting himself into,” she laughed. “He helps out wherever he can help out.”
Carly, a student at Galion Middle School, has been involved in 4-H for the past six years. She has exhibited alpacas, turkeys, chickens, and guinea pigs and has also presented art and sewing projects during the course of her career. She said she’s enjoyed the 2021 fair.
“It’s been a pretty good experience,” said Carly, who is in her third year showing alpacas. “We’ve had a lot of people come to the alpaca barn and just have a learning experience about the different types of alpacas and llamas.”
Carly noted the differences and similarities in preparing alpacas and poultry for the fair.
“You have to make sure poultry are clean, so you have to wash them, clean their pens, put new sawdust in it, because they have to be nice and white,” she said. “Alpacas, you just have to make sure their pen is clean and they have water and hay. And you have to practice obstacles and showmanship with them.”
Each alpaca has its own unique personality and temperament, Carly said, noting that her alpaca, Charlie Brown, is no different.
“He’s pretty laid back. He will cooperate pretty much with anything,” she said.
Illustrating the differences between individual animals, Mandy pointed out that younger brother Colby’s alpaca, named Groot, wasn’t quite as cooperative during showmanship on Wednesday.
“Groot is a little bit more temperamental. He had a rough day during show (Wednesday),” Mandy said. Colby is a student at Galion Intermediate School.
The Kents and many other local alpaca exhibitors lease their animals from New Beginnings Family Farm, 5300 Ohio 181, east of Galion. As part of the project, exhibitors are required to maintain a work log detailing how many times they went to the farm to work with their animal and what they did during each visit.
This year’s fair has been a successful one for Carly. She won first prize with her turkey project, placed third with her chickens project, finished third in alpaca showmanship, and placed in the top five in the alpaca obstacles competition.
Older brother Cooper, a student at Galion High School, has committed to studying and compiling the genealogy of the family for his 4-H project, Mandy said. It’s an extensive undertaking.
“Cooper actually completed year five of the genealogy project this year,” Mandy said. “He’s been really into that. He’s gone to (the Ohio State Fair) several times and he’s the state fair representative again this year. He had to add over 120 people to his project this year. He does all the research. He has to get into the U.S. Census and verify with that or the birth certificates or whatever documents that he can find and verify that they’re part of our family and add them to our family tree.
“Every year he finds something new and crazy and weird. He just loves finding that stuff.”
The Kent family also camps out at the fairgrounds in Bucyrus during fair week — the cherry on top of their annual fair experience.
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