With the 111th-annual Clackamas County Fair just around the corner, youngsters from all across the county are preparing to exhibit animals and projects that represent the four pillars of 4H: head, heart, hands and health.
It's all part of an effort to let kids discover what they're passionate about, according to Clackamas County 4H Youth Agent Wendy Hein.
"The 4H program is important because it lets local youth explore areas that most excite them, and because they're so interested in those topics they're willing to learn at a deeper level and learn skills that will help them as adults," Hein says.
The County Fair and Rodeo opens at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the fairgrounds in Canby, promising five days of food, games, carnival rides, vendor booths and live entertainment. But at its heart, the event has always been about agriculture, livestock and exhibits that range from table decorating and cooking to all sorts of hobbies and crafts.
And that's what attracts 4H members like 16-year-old Kaneesha Banks of Lake Oswego, who is preparing for her fifth year at the fair and her third consecutive year showing llamas.
"The 4H program has taught me that I'm not just a city person," Banks says. "Even if you're from somewhere like Lake Oswego, you can still have a bit of a country side."
Banks says training llamas takes a lot of patience. The point is to work with your animal on presentation and following directions, she says, as well as completing an obstacle course similar to one you'd find at a dog show.
Banks also shows her photography through 4H. She's been shooting pictures for as long as she can remember, she says, but received her first camera when she was 12 years old. She says inspiration can strike anywhere and at moments she least expects.
"It's really random for me. These days, I mostly use my phone," Banks says. "Sometimes, I'll be a on a drive somewhere and see a landscape, sunset or flowers that catch my eye."
Banks says she's excited for the fair because it's a time when all of her 4H friends can get together, support each other's projects and spend a few late nights hanging out. Since she lives in Lake Oswego and participates in 4H in Molalla, she says she doesn't get to see her 4H friends all that often.
Still, Banks says she appreciates the opportunities and growth 4H has given her.
"I think 4H is special because it really does teach you leadership skills. And also, in my opinion, it teaches confidence. At the fair, there are all these strangers coming up to you asking about your animals, and it helps you put yourself out there," she says. "Even if you're not into animals or part of 4H, you should definitely check it out because you can learn a lot from people there and see how much effort they put into training their animals and other projects."
Carly Shanklin of West Linn feels the same way. The 14-year-old competes in horse presentation as well as art projects such as pencil drawings, sketch art and painting.
Shanklin and her sister Kendall have competed at the fair for about five years, and they say they're grateful to be a part of a program that helps them improve themselves in so many different areas.
"4H is a valuable program because it's taught my sister and I a lot of life skills, as well as given us hands-on learning," Shanklin says. "We come back year after year because it's a fun experience working with kids younger and older, as well as with our animals."
Along with her American Paint horse Oscar, Shanklin will also be showing rabbits, guinea pigs and pigeons at the fair. She also competes in a public speaking competition in which she uses her intimate knowledge of horses to drive speeches on topics such as horses in art, or how horses perceive the world around them differently than humans.
Like Banks, Shanklin says one of the best parts about 4H is the community of friends she's built throughout the years. She's excited to reunite with old friends and make a few new ones when she heads to the fair next week.
"It's overall been a really good learning experience," Shanklin says, "talking to and meeting different people while getting some hands-on learning."
IF YOU GO
What: Clackamas County Fair and Rodeo
When: Tuesday, Aug. 15 through Saturday, Aug. 19
Where: Clackamas County Event Center, 694 N.E. Fourth Ave., Canby
Hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday.
Tickets: Single-day tickets to the Clackamas County Fair start at $9 for ages 13 and up. Junior and senior tickets for ages 7-12 and 65-74 are $5; visitors 75 and over get in free. Season passes are $15 for seniors, $20 for juniors and $36 for adults. General admission to the rodeo costs $8; dual entry to the rodeo and fair is $17.
Note: Tuesday is Fred Meyer Family Day, where kids 12 and under are admitted free to the evening rodeo performance. Wednesday is the Portland Spirit's Senior Citizens Day, when admission for seniors is only $2. Friday will honor emergency services, military members and veterans with free admission. Saturday is Salute to Agriculture Day, with junior livestock auctions — including swine, chickens, beef, rabbits, lamb and goats — beginning at 10 a.m.
More information: www.Clackamas.us/fair