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TULELAKE — It’s calm and productive at the Tulelake-Butte Valley Fairgrounds in the days before the fair is open to the public. When the festivities officially start on today at 10 a.m., the fairgrounds will be flooded with people eating food and going on carnival rides. Before that can happen, though, there’s some work that needs to be done.

Nancy Sites is the Tulelake-Butte Valley Fair manager. She has been in the fair business for quite some time, previously working for the Oregon State Fair in Salem.

“It’s a job I knew would never be boring,” she said.

Sites said that a big part of setting up for the fair happens in the Arts and Crafts and Home Economics buildings, where coordinators and judges set up and begin to judge exhibits.

‘Best of Show’

On Tuesday, judges in the Home Economics building sorted through exhibition submissions, getting ready to award “Best of Show” in categories from quilting to interpretive photography.

Judge Sharon Rajnus said she thinks the fair exhibitions do a particularly good job of encouraging children to exercise their creativity.

“I like to encourage the kids,” she said. “That’s paramount.”

Rajnus thinks that, while they do pick winners in each fair category, winning isn’t as important as participating in the fair.

Mary Shuck is the chief exhibit coordinator and this year’s fair parade grand marshal. She said she spends the days before the fair setting up the Arts and Crafts and Home Economics buildings, transforming them into galleries of exhibits.

“The whole thing is one big display where all the entries are,” Shuck said.

Lost art

She said she thinks it’s important for people to participate in arts and crafts and home economics, especially hands-on activities.

“It’s a lost art,” Shuck said. “Hopefully some of the kids will be inspired by this. There is still a community of people who still do it.”

Over in the animal barns, children from nearby 4-H clubs prepared their animals to be exhibited, and eventually put up for auction.

Kyle Fowle is a 12-year-old from Etna 4-H in Siskiyou County who raises sheep for exhibition at the fair.

“I’ve always liked animals, since I was little,” Fowle said. “That’s probably the best part, being able to do stuff with animals, to get the opportunity to do that.”

Also with the sheep is Kaden Wilson, also 12, who is part of the Big Springs 4-H Club. On Wednesday, he was working to shear his sheep for presentation at the fair.

Confidence, responsibility

Kaden’s grandmother, Linda Smith, said she sees the benefits that participating in 4-H has on kids.

“It teaches them confidence to talk to adults, and it teaches them responsibility. I think it’s awesome,” she said.

Even with all the hard labor, many of the kids are excited to do some less demanding work at the fair. That is, eating some beloved fair food and going on carnival rides.

Jaci Watson and Yuleidy Gonzalez, members of Tulelake 4-H, said they’ve been working hard on raising their sheep and goats all summer. They said they are excited that their hard work is paying off, and to be able to have some fun at the fair.

Bridget Warhurst is a coordinator for the Tulelake 4-H club. Though she said she isn’t as involved in the fair as she used to be, she still sees how this kind of hard work can impact the children involved.

“It’s amazing what 4-H can do for kids. It can change their entire demeanor,” Warhurst said. “It makes a better human, in my opinion.”