- Associated Press - Friday, August 15, 2014

ALPENA, Mich. (AP) - The Udell family has been involved with 4-H for over 30 years, and in that 30 years, Tricia Udell has never missed one Alpena County Fair.

Udell started showing animals at the fair when she was old enough to be a 4-H member, and has since had all of her children involved in the fair, which ends Saturday, and the program.

“The fair and 4-H is such a positive experience for kids,” she told The Alpena News (http://bit.ly/1oE5SfY ). “When I was younger I got involved in 4-H and have been hooked ever since. I’ve shown all different kinds of animals from cattle to poultry, sheep and goats. It really teaches you responsibility, leadership, and how to take pride in your work.”

Udell said preparation for the fair begins months ahead of time, and each of the animals are raised from their start by members.

“The family starts their projects in either February or March, or earlier depending on what they’re showing,” Udell said. “Being involved in the fair and the program really helps encourage them to try new things and learn more about different animals.”

Each animal that is shown helps members to learn more about the different breeds and special features associated with that specific animal. Udell said her children have learned about the body parts of the animals, different diseases they are susceptible to, and more about the industry of agriculture in general and how to market and invite buyers for the market sale at the end of fair week.

“The kids have shown cattle, market steers, feeder calves, hogs, geese, ducks and chickens,” Udell said. “The more prepared you are for a show, the better you will do. Every year my kids want to try something new and challenge themselves to do better. Being involved in the fair through 4-H allows them to get their hands dirty and experience working with animals and how to care and make them the best for the market.”

Udell’s family has always been and continues to be a solid support group for each member involved in 4-H. They camp at the fair every year for the week, and all help to encourage each other before shows and before the market sale.

“This is really a family affair,” she said. “This program encourages families to spend quality time together and work side-by-side to encourage learning and success.”

After she went through all the years in the program, Udell wanted to continue with 4-H, so she joined the council and has her own troop of members called the Hay-Rustlers. The whole family volunteers with the fair each year and attend work bees to help keep the fairgrounds looking great.

“Many hands make light work,” she said. “We all volunteer with the fair and helping out over the week. There is a great group of hard-working people who come together every year to make this possible, and we enjoy helping out.”

Some of the skills 4-H members practice during the fair are public speaking, showmanship and fair competition. Learning to speak in public and to present themselves and their animals to the judges builds up self-confidence.

“The program encourages them to start a project and follow through to finish it,” she said. “Since I started 4-H, I fell in love with the program. It has been the backbone of my life. So many of the skills I’ve learned and used over the years came from my involvement in 4-H. It helped to build my character and get me outside and working with other kids who had similar interests. It is an amazing opportunity for kids, and I’m so happy it is available right here in our county. I would encourage anyone who is interested to give it a try.”

Udell said through the program she is able to see her children grow and develop these skills further every year they participate.

“The fair for us, is the highlight of the year. It’s busy, but it is great to see so much growth in our kids from year to year,” she said. “I think it helps them to break out of that shell and try new things while getting them involved with different people and helping them develop skills they will use for the rest of their lives.

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Information from: The Alpena News, http://www.thealpenanews.com

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