Family?s fair investment typical in 4-H


Members of the Geis family pose with four of the girls? 4-H animal exhibits. From left: Lauren, Lisa, Wayne and Deb.

Last week, photos being mounted for display covered their living room table. Sisters Lauren and Lisa Geis were getting their 4-H photography exhibits ready for the Marion County Fair.

In the garage, a large pink pig, made of paper mache, was ready to be mounted on their club?s float for Wednesday?s parade.

Now, this week marks the culmination of long hours and hard work on 4-H projects for the Geis family of rural Durham.


?The girls are anxious to find out how their efforts will turn out,? said Deb Geis, referred to by her daughters as ?the soccer mom of 4-H? because of all the driving she does for them.

Deb serves on the Marion County Fair Board and helps manage the Dog Show Division countywide. Husband Wayne, a rancher and farmer by trade, is the family?s ?cattle project leader.?

?After the fair, we?re going to fall apart,? Deb said.

For the Geis family, the Marion County Fair runs a full week. Photography is only one of the divisions in which the girls will compete.

Fair activities started last Saturday with the dog show where Lauren showed Annie, her miniature Australian shepherd, and Lisa showed Ein?short for Einstein?her Corgi.

On Sunday, the family joined other 4-Hers to clean and set up the fairgrounds. Their focus Monday evening was horsemanship. On Tuesday, the girls will check in their animals and other entries.

Goats are judged on Wednes?day, along with parade floats. The girls will show their cattle Thursday with swine and the livestock sale to follow Friday.

The finale is the Round Robin Showmanship competition held Saturday.

?That?s very competitive in our county,? Deb said about the event.

To qualify for the Round Robin, each entrant must have placed as champion or reserve champion showman in either beef, sheep, swine, horse, dairy or dairy goat categories.

Then, each contestant must show six different species of animals, which are owned by others. They cannot show their own animals.

?Each species has different criteria for showing,? Deb said.

The goal for both girls is to win champion showman in their age group. Lauren has come close, placing as reserve champion last year.

The Geis family started in 4-H with son Logan, now 20 and stationed in California with the Marine Reserves. He competed in rocketry and dogs.

?It?s been a good thing for our family,? said Deb, a 4-Her herself with the Lucky Leaf 4-H Club near Aulne.

Their 4-H activities play an important role in day-to-day life, whether it?s feeding and grooming animals, attending meetings or competing in events.

Lauren has served as club secretary, and both girls have held the office of historian.

Both girls started in 4-H at age 7 and are members of the Tampa Triple T?s. Lisa, 12, competes in the intermediate division while Lauren, 14, competes in the senior division.

The Tampa Triple T?s club meets Sunday or Monday evenings during the fourth week of the month at the Tampa Senior Center, Deb said. The 15-mile trip to Tampa is just one of many destinations the Geis family makes from the farm, located about a mile from the Marion-McPherson county line.

?We just drive it,? Deb said about the many miles accumulated.

Deb estimated between 30 and 40 youth are active in their club, and many of the parents come to the meetings.

The Geis girls have experienced a range of animals for their 4-H projects, including chickens, goats, cattle, dogs, horses and pigs.

?I think we?ve done every animal except sheep and dairy,? Lauren said.

Earlier this month, the girls qualified for the state fair in English riding after competing at the district level in Salina.

?We try to ride (the horses) as much as we can,? Lauren said, although recent rains have slowed that down. ?It takes a lot of work.?

Lauren?s equestrian interest began when she took riding lessons with Belinda Engler of Marion. The Geises now own eight horses, including four miniatures.

This summer Lauren, a freshman at Hillsboro High School, and Lisa, a seventh grader, worked with three younger girls from their 4-H club and taught them how to show the miniature horses, Deb said, adding, ?The (younger) girls really enjoyed that.?

Both rural and city youth join Marion County?s six 4-H clubs, Deb said. Members participate in a wide range of project areas, including livestock, sewing, foods, woodworking, geology and leadership to name a few. Youth also have the option to choose a self-determined project?an individualized alternative.

?You can do just about anything (as a project) you can make it fit,? Deb said.

The Geis girls invest a lot of themselves in their projects.

?(4-H) gives you confidence,? Lauren said. ?You get a good friendship with other people. And it?s an opportunity to learn responsibility.?

The girls are responsible to care for their animals.

With pigs, that means watering them a couple of times during the day, Lauren said.

Wayne said the girls walk their cattle by the pigs and play music on the radio to get the animals oriented to the different smells and sounds they may experience at the fairgrounds.

The two girls provide mutual accountability.

?It?s good times for them as sisters,? Deb said.

Lisa said one of her high points in 4-H was winning the stock buckle at Newton in the intermediate level?a significant accomplishment, evidenced by how proudly Lisa wears the buckle on her belt.

In spite of the good times in 4-H, the girls also have experienced some difficult ones, such as when Lauren?s horse was injured and she had to compete with another one.

?You slow down, take a deep breath, relax and everything will be OK,? Lauren said about lessons learned.

Her mother agrees.

?You do the best you can with what you?ve got,? Deb said.

Asked about challenges involved with their 4-H projects, Wayne said, ?There?s lots.?

One of the main ones is getting cattle to lead, he said.

The girls sometimes have been disappointed with the results they receive in competition.

?It?s always the judge?s opinion,? Deb said. ?But you can still feel good about yourself, no matter what.?

The girls have learned to take criticism, she added, which can be difficult, ?especially when you think you?ve got the best.?

No one can question whether the family?s involvement in 4-H has kept them busy this summer.

?If it wasn?t for 4-H, we wouldn?t be doing anything,? Lauren said.

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