BLUE GRASS, Iowa — Fair season has finally arrived, and several Quad Cities area farming families are gearing up for the Mississippi Valley Fair. What most may not know, though, is the hard work and dedication that goes into many of the things you'll see at the fair, including the livestock and other special projects from local 4-H families.
Visit the Powell family farm in Blue Grass, Iowa, and you'll see some of the exciting work kids and young adults are doing to gear up for the fair. From rabbits to cows and even goats, you'll see quite a variety of animals at their farm and, eventually, the fair.
"There's a lot of brushing. I have to pick out the bottom of his feet sometimes to keep all the rocks and stuff out of it", said Owen Powell, who has been working with his horse, Big D. "My favorite part about the horses is bonding with the horse, just developing that trust over time. I think that's a really cool aspect."
This is Owen's seventh year being involved with 4-H. When showing his horse, judges will be looking at several different things, like how the horse reacts to certain situations.
At the farm you'll also run into Levi and Cody, Owen's brothers. Levi has been working with his rabbit, Camo, for the last three years.
"I've always loved rabbits. One day, I asked if I could get one, and now, I've got three," Levi said.
He said the most challenging part when it comes to taking care of rabbits is brushing them while they are shedding.
"It's not fun."
Cody took a different route this year, opting to build a homemade cooler bench made of wood from one of their previous barn buildings.
"I decided that we wanted to do something cool with some of the old wood that we had in our barn and from one of our older barns. So, we went out, got some wood, and then we put it all together," he said.
This isn't the first woodworking project that Cody has done.
"Last year, I made three tic-tac-toe boards that I turned in. Just for those, I got reserve champion, and then, I have also done a couple of welding projects."
Cody said this year's project took him 12 to 14 hours to complete. This is his fifth or sixth year doing woodworking projects.
Cody said the family's hard work goes beyond creating woodworking projects and showing animals.
"Every year, we have a cookout for the firemen where we would make three different types of soups and three desserts, and then, we give that to them and their next meeting which would usually be the day after we have a flag route where we go out on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and we put flags on everybody's house."
Rachel Ehlers, a family friend of the Powells, also adds something unique to the 4-H lineup with her welding creations. Ehlers said she has been welding for about three years and has taken classes in school. For this year's fair, she made a firepit.
But what's more impressive is the community service work she's done utilizing her welding gift: cemetery markers.
"I've made about 105 of them," she said about a recent partnership with a cemetery in Walcott, where she's refurbishing row markers. "It's very time-consuming."
Ehlers said her grandfather, who works at the cemetery, came up with the idea of bringing the row markers back to life. Row markers are what help people find the final resting place of loved ones.
Ehlers said other young women who are interested in welding should give it a try!
"Just go for it," she said. "I know at West High School, they have a great welding program. So, just try a class, maybe the basic class, and you'll probably fall in love with it like I did because it's something that's really fun. Most people can be very intimidated, but it really isn't. Once you get the hang of it, you don't think anything of it."
Ehlers has also worked with goats for previous 4-H projects.