The pink trucks have pulled on to the fairgrounds, a signal to townspeople that something exciting is about to happen. For 4-H families, the fair began last Friday and will continue right up until the Pratt County Fair officially opens on Wednesday and until the Pride of Texas carnival packs up and moves on.
The Pratt Area 4-H Center had the aroma of a potluck dinner Monday morning, as 4-H'ers brought in casseroles to be judged as part of their foods and nutrition projects, along with cute snacks and appetizers, yummy baked goods, appealing gift baskets and a few sparkling jars of homemade jelly.
"This is very good," judge Sally Nighswonger commented to Wyatt Slade, as she tasted his baked spaghetti dish. Then the crucial question: "who did the dishes when you were done?" The 12-year-old not only made dinner, he cleaned up afterwards.
With a new baby brother (Tucker James, born Sunday to Jeffrie and Amy Slade) coming home soon, Wyatt agreed he might be called on for some kitchen duty for a while.
Meanwhile, Nighswonger asked that Wyatt's casserole be held back for further consideration in the championship class. He covered the dish and stashed it in a refrigerator in the fairgrounds kitchen, so it would be safe for the judge to taste again, or even to take home and serve for supper.
Makala Orler brought a table-full of exhibits for the judge to evaluate. In her last year of 4-H, she decided to "go big, or go home." Going big included a two-layer carrot cake, a trio of jumbo muffins, a gift package and other items.
Jay Crowdis brought out a sandwich for the judge to taste first. Teresa Lang liked it, but asked how the meat and cheese combo could be made more nutritious. Jay suggested a whole grain bun instead of the white bun he chose.
Martha Wade, a leader who represents the 4-H program on the Pratt County Fair Association Executive Board, strolled through the exhibit hall to make sure everything was running smoothly. She munched on a muffin — her first fair food of the year — made by 4-H'er Kelsey Koster, who left the plate for workers after it was judged.
Dorris Brant, who has volunteered at the fair since her daughters were 4-H members in the 1970s, was on hand to clerk for a foods judge.
Hillary Dolbee, a relatively new fair volunteer, was in the demonstration room carrying out her job "to make sure the judge has no issues."
4-H'ers Saige Twiner and Elly Brehm gave an illustrated talk, "Why Farm Fresh Eggs Are Better For You." They have more vitamin A, less cholesterol, less saturated fat, more vitamin E, more beta carotene and more healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Compared with eggs bought at the store, farm eggs have more vitamin D, which most people don't get enough of, according to the girls, who listed a number of health consequences of deficiency.
Elly said the angel food cakes she makes from farm eggs are fluffier.
"It's worth the time and effort to purchase farm fresh eggs," Saige summarized.
There are a number of egg producers in the county and eggs may be available at farmers' markets, she said.
Fourteen-year-old Madison Carroll gave a talk about her business, Maddie's Goodies. Three years ago, she borrowed money from her mom to start a small bakery business, and was able to pay her loan off in a few short months. She bakes muffins, cookies and occasionally cinnamon rolls.
"My great-grandma taught my mom, and she taught me," Madison said. "They are the best cinnamon rolls."
She gave several tips for starting a business as a teen and several advantages. She doesn't make a lot of money, she said, but she does make a profit.
"Turn off the TV and get started," she encouraged.
When the fair actually starts — exhibits will be open to the public at 6 p.m. Wednesday — photographs of winners of pre-fair events will be posted in the hallway near the office.