The Kosciusko County Community Fair begins every year with a parade, a ribbon cutting ceremony and free admission. This year, however, some of Indiana's legislators were added to the festivities.
The 2010 Kosciusko County 4-H Legislative Beef Show was held July 11 in the show arena. Six of Indiana's legislators participated in the event in which county 4-H'ers educated them about livestock production, let them demonstrate what they learned by showing an animal, and then shared a meal.
The event was organized by 13-year-old Madison Dobbins, who has been planning it for months.
"I am excited! I'm so pumped," said Madison before the show began.
Madison sent out invitations in the spring to state lawmakers in hopes of educating them about animal production and the importance of agriculture in Indiana.
"I have learned about organizations like the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) and PETA, and they are working to end livestock shows in many communities across the country," said Madison. "Most lawmakers do not have experience with livestock, and my goal is to help them understand our side."
The participating guests included county commissioner Bob Conley, State Rep. Dave Wolkins, county comissioner Ron Truex, Republican nominee for State Rep. Rebecca Kubaki, Cass County head deputy prosecutor Lisa Swaim, and Indiana State Department of Agriculture's John Nagle. Many of the initially invited lawmakers did not attend.
Kevin Harris, a 4-H parent and active leader in several areas of 4-H, said he thought this event was beneficial for everyone involved.
"The idea that legislators can see what happens at the fair and at other shows is great," said Harris. "Especially since it was brought about by an active 4-H'er. Hopefully seeing what the kids do with the help of parents will bring some goodwill between 4-H and politics in Indiana."
The participants were put into groups with three 4-H beef project members, who were wearing T-shirts donated by Louis Dreyfus for the occasion. After a welcome message by Madison and cookies donated by first-year 4-H foods project members, the guests were taught everything they needed to know about a beef animal.
"These kids really have their heads in it," said Conley.
They know everything from how much these animals weigh to their body temperature, and they're choosing to care for animals instead of doing drugs."
Swain agreed with Conley and added, "They should really receive letter jackets from school for this!"
After a few hours of learning from the 4-H'ers, the participants then led their animals into the show arena. Each contestant then made some comments about the experience.
"I know where the next generation of elected officials are coming from," said Truex. "This is a lot harder than I thought it would be."
Kubaki also defended agriculture by saying that the exhibitors raise and love their animals all while knowing the animals still have a purpose.
"Agriculture is a business," Kubaki said. "People have to be fed and when the kids put the animal on a truck they know they helped feed families."
Truex was awarded champion of the show.
The participants were then given a cooler donated by Louis Dreyfus full of beef donated by 4-H families. They were then treated to a dinner with additional 4-H'ers to discuss even more the value of the program.