Special to The Gardner News
4H is a family convention for many people. Much of their time is invested year round in preparation for events, the biggest of which is by far the Johnson County Fair.
Elena Burg, a member of the Country Hearts Club, looks forward to participating in the fair each year. She got involved in the 4H program through the influence of her mother.
“My mom was a 4Her when she was my age,” Burg said. “She wanted me to get involved- I guess it’s kind of a family tradition.”
Burg raises and shows several varieties of rabbit and competes against other 4Hers. Because she lives in a suburban neighborhood she doesn’t have any other animals.
“It would be hard to have bigger animals in a smaller space,” Burg said.
Like many of her fellow competitors, Burg spends her entire summer preparing for the fair. She doesn’t breed her own rabbits but purchases them from a family friend who is a breeder. She has many responsibilities in owning and raising the animals.
“The fair is the climax of a 4Her’s year!” Burg said. “I have to keep my rabbit healthy.”
There are a lot of frustrations for animal owners during the busy summer. Hectic schedules can mean that some of the time needed to care for animals can be cut short.
“I went away to church camp for 9 days in July,” Burg recalled. “It was a really bad time to go because [the rabbits] were shedding.”
When rabbits are submitted for judging, there are a few different processes that are undergone. 4H members are evaluated on their knowledge, according to Burg.
“I have to talk to the judge,” Burg said. “I’ll show him the different parts of my rabbit so he can see how much I know.”
After the competitors are evaluated, the rabbits qualified to win the show are judged independently. They are judged on their body shape and condition, fur, and overall health, and should be clean and well-groomed.
Although 4H is incredibly time consuming, it offers many benefits to its participants. Burg’s favorite part is the social aspect. There are lots of relationships to be formed and friends to be made.
“I’ve met so many people, and everyone is fun to be around,” Burg said.
Burg’s efforts weren’t wasted- one of her rabbits received a ‘best in class’ award. She called it a very successful summer.