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There is a good reason they call these ceremonies "commencement exercises." Graduation is not the end; it’s the beginning.
– Orrin Hatch  
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  Volume No. 11 Issue No. 6 June 2014  

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Feature Stories
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  4-H kids prepare for fair
  By Lara Freeman

   The El Paso County Fair is just around the corner, and 4-H members throughout the county are preparing for their events.
   
   Gregory and Daniel Shapiro will participate in the poultry and livestock portions of the county fair this year. Gregory, age 13, is in his third year of 4-H, and 11-year-old Daniel is in his fourth year. Gregory described his rooster that he will show. “I have a Phoenix,” he said. “He came from Japan; he's also a half -European chicken and half- Japanese, which gives him his long tail feathers.” Gregory said the bird was entered into the American Standard of Perfection in 1802, which is like an encyclopedia of American poultry.
   
   “Once you get your animal, you start working it and finding as much information as you can about that type of animal,” Gregory said. “Working the animal is becoming friends with the animal.”
   
   Gregory also participated in the National Western Stock Show this past winter, and won a calf in a calf-catching contest. “At the stock show, they had us line up and we all charged the calves,” Gregory said. Catching the calf qualified Gregory for showing the calf he won at the stock show next year.
   
   He received the calf in May and hopes to show him later this year, although he is not planning on showing him at the county fair. Gregory is one of two children in El Paso County showing calves.
   
   Daniel said he has always been interested in chickens. “I liked chickens,” he said. “We got our first ones before we even did 4-H. Mom wanted to do sheep, then we figured out there was a poultry show, and we went from there.”
   Daniel and Gregory demonstrated “bracing” their lambs, which is how they hold their lambs for show. “You set your legs and push so they stand up for show,” Daniel said. The boys showed how they brace the animals so their backs are straight and their legs are parallel.
   
   Both boys said they are continually preparing for the fair and other shows. They keep records of feeding, cleaning, medical treatments and work done with the animals. They show the animals three to five times a year. About two months before a show, they start grooming the animals. Broken feathers are plucked so they can grow back in, and sheep are shorn so their coats grow back to the mandatory 2 inches for the show. A couple weeks before the show, sheep are bathed; and a couple days before the show, they bathe the poultry. “Izzy (a sheep) needs to be washed a couple weeks in advance so her wool regains her crimp,” said the boys' mother, Shawna Shapiro. Daniel said they wash their birds about two days prior to the show, so they are dry and their feathers regain their oils for the show.
   
   “I love what they've learned,” Shawna Shapiro said. They learn life sciences, caring for animals and loss. Animals die, and the boys also put most of their stock up for auction within a year of obtaining them, she said. “The biggest thing I wanted the kids to learn was where our food comes from and to respect that,” she said.
   
   Shooting competitions
   The Bremer siblings, 11-year-old JB and his sister Gloria, age 9, participate in shooting sports for 4-H. They will be competing at the Douglas County Fair, but their preparations are similar to the El Paso County Fair.
   
   Before they qualify for the actual shooting competition, they have to present a “board” of information about preparing for the fair. “You get pictures of the different things you're presenting about, and you write down information about it,” JB said. “At the fair, you go into a room with a bunch of other kids and a judge looks at the board. If you don't do well at the board, you're automatically disqualified.” Gloria said they also keep records of their practices, which is judged as well.
   
   Once they qualify, JB and Gloria can compete in the actual shooting competitions. JB will be competing in the compound bow, recurve bow and .22 rifle shooting competitions, and Gloria is competing in compound bow and .22 rifle. “The fair is our first competition, other than the ones with our dad,” JB said. They practice their skills at home and at 4-H meetings, where they learn proper stances and techniques for shooting. “We race with our dad to see how many targets we can hit,” JB said.
   
   JB's favorite part of 4-H is the competition, and Gloria's is the opportunity to meet new people.


 
  

Daniel Shapiro demonstrates bracing Bart, the lamb, for show.
 

Gregory Shapiro displays his rooster Archie, and Daniel Shapiro holds Popcorn. They will show these birds for 4-H during the El Paso County Fair. Photo by Lara Freeman.
 

Gloria and JB Bremer prepare for their archery competitions for 4-H in the Douglas County Fair. Photo by Lara Freeman.
 

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