Pratt County 4-Hers ready to go with record number of sheep and goats checked in for 2021 fair

Ruby Howell
Pratt Tribune
Pratt County 4-H club member Kinley Freeman heads to Pratt County's annual market goat weigh-in on May 7. The county fair may seem far away but the next few weeks will fly by as area youth and exhibitors prepare their projects.

After an insanely different fair atmosphere last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pratt County 4-Hers and others who participate in the Pratt County Fair regularly are putting in place place plans for business-as-usual event in 2021. 

On May 7, the annual small animal weigh-in was held at the fairgrounds. Setting a record-high, 44 sheep and 43 goats were weighed and tagged for fair participation by Pratt County 4-Hers.  All 4-H members enrolled in the sheep and goat projects were required to bring their animals to the weigh-in to be eligible to be shown at the Pratt County Fair. 

Pratt County Extension Agent Jodi Drake said that the animals get an official 4-H e-ID ear tag and they go across the scales.  If 4-H members want to show their animals at the Kansas State Fair or the Kansas Junior Livestock Show, they must also nominate their animals by filling out a form, obtaining DNA samples, and submitting a fee to the State Fair office. 4-H bucket calves were not required to make an appearance at weigh-in this year, instead, families were able to pick up a 4-H ear tag ahead of time and tag their own animals at home.  This made things a little easier for families who only had a bucket calf or who had to be out of town.

The 4-H organization is slowly but surely returning to pre-COVID ways as mask mandates are dropped across the state. Drake said that Kansas State University is allowing extension units to adopt and follow their local regulations. 

The theme for this year’s fair is “Team 4-H,” which Drake said is a spin-off of the Olympics. This theme was originally set to be the theme in 2020, however with the Olympics being postponed, state leadership chose to roll-over  the theme choice as well. As usual, this summer the fair will be home to a host of theme-related contests. Some include the popular quilt block contest in which submitted quilt block designs must show some motion. There will also be a photography contest that must feature an action shot, and a horticulture contest that will ask participants to bring in their most unusual shaped vegetable. An arts and crafts contest for the kids will be done with the Pratt Public Library and the Vernon Filley Art Museum.  For the first time ever, they will be trying a recipe contest in the Open Class Foods department.

As for 2021 fair entertainment, fair boardmembers are still in discussion about the safest the most fun route to pursue. Fair memberships will go on sale on May 22 for $30 each. Drake said this is a $10 reduction in the price. Buyers will get a chance to win a beef or pork bundle from T&W Meats and one raffle ticket to enter to win one of seven raffle prizes.

“As of today, there is no carnival planned and we have no set plans for entertainment,” Drake said. “4-H and Open Class exhibits will go on as usual. Our schedule for judging will be much like the 2019 schedule. One change will be the location of the Hand Pet Show.  In the past we have gone to Parkwood Village for that, this year we will be going to the Pratt Public Library.”

Currently, Drake is the only Pratt County Extension Agent serving the area. Usually, there are two agents. The other agent position has been vacant for some time now, as K-State has been in a hiring freeze since the beginning of the pandemic. 

“While we still want to operate with caution, we do want to get back to as many activities as normal as we can,” Drake said. “Kansas State University is currently in a hiring freeze so we are unable to fill the open Extension Agent position in our office at this time. We do not know when that hiring freeze will be lifted.” 

Whatever happens with the hiring freeze or fair entertainment, one thing is for sure: The Pratt County Fair 2021 is back and Pratt County 4-Hers are looking forward to showing their projects there.