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Neely Vavrina knew it was going to be a busy summer working as a Nebraska Extension-Butler County 4-H intern, but she acknowledged the sheer amount of work associated with planning for the upcoming county fair has been somewhat surprising.

Earlier this week, the 2016 Aquinas High School graduate and Ethan Dietrich, a senior-to-be at David City High School, were busy at work inside of the local Nebraska Extension office. Dietrich was spending his afternoon working to identify small black insects a local woman brought in after finding them on one of her trees, and Vavrina strategically maneuvered through piles of fair paperwork.

Fortunately, it’s right up Vavrina’s alley.

“I’m going to be an elementary school teacher, so I just love planning – it’s one of the big things I enjoy doing,” the Abie native said. “I go to Concordia (University) and have done a lot of that type of stuff, and I knew that this internship was planning and getting ready for the fair so I thought it would be a great thing for me.”

This year’s Butler County Fair is set to run July 16-21 at the Butler County Fairgrounds, 62 L St. in David City. The grounds will once again be packed with an assortment of activities and the Butler County Event Center for the third year will house a variety of 4-H static exhibits.

Much of Vavrina’s time and energy has gone toward ensuring that 4-H entrants are ready to rock and roll next week when fair season officially kicks off.

“A lot of what I’ve been doing is just getting everything into an Excel sheet and getting all of the files ready for the judges,” Vavrina said. “Just really getting everything ready.”

Although the annual fair offers a little something for most in attendance, 4-H activities are what the fair has traditionally been all about. This year, 220 4-H community club members countywide – ages 5 through 18 – will participate in static and animal-related competitions over the course of the six-day fair.

The 4-H season typically gears up in October of each year and ultimately leads up to county fairs and finally, the Nebraska State Fair held in August in Grand Island. Every day of the fair has some sort of 4-H presence. It allows for all the kids and teens to show off all of their hard work and hopefully, be rewarded for their efforts.

“So what people probably think of when they think of 4-H at the county fair is showing cattle, or showing pigs, photography, cooking and sewing,” said Katie Pleskac, 4-H extension educator for Nebraska Extension-Butler County. “But there are also new projects: Computers, rocketry, robotics, we’ve done a couple of things with the county that are county level only projects.”

4-H participants at this year’s Butler County Fair represent approximately 10 organized 4-H clubs from all around the county. All 4Hers have spent months working toward the county fair, with their eyes ultimately set on making it to Grand Island.

“The fair is really the capstone experience; capping off all of that learning,” Pleskac said. “And if they are selected their project will move onto the state fair, or they will take that livestock animal to the state fair, which, you know, is just another added piece of that celebration of learning.”

For Vavrina, ever the planner, her role serving as a 4-H intern has also been quite the learning experience. It’s something she’s sure will pay dividends down the road wherever her career path leads.

“I knew it would be a lot of work going into it, but I love doing it because I love planning – it’s something I’ve really enjoyed,” she said. “I didn’t know that it would be quite this much work, but I’ve liked doing it.”

Pleskac, an Ohio native, spent 11 years in 4-H herself. Having a 4-H background, she noted that when she moved to Nebraska and took over the extension position that there were a few differences with how the operation ran. However, at its core, 4-H remains pretty constant wherever it’s offered.

“4-H is one of those organizations where it doesn’t matter where you’re at. Yes, it’s a little different, but the foundation of it is the same,” Pleskac said, noting that the foundation includes molding children into the best versions of themselves and preparing them for life in general.

Although she’s been busy with fair preparation nine times prior, attending and seeing 4-Hers’ hard work never grows old.

“I just like watching the kids and seeing that sense of pride that they have, but also watching them walk out of the show ring, and maybe things didn’t go as they planned, but they still have a smile on their face and still know that they did a great job,” she said. “They know they did the best that they can do, but you can kind of see from the expression on their face that they are thinking about what they also could have done better next time they are in that show ring.”

For a full listing of Butler County Fair activities, those interested are encouraged to visit www.butler-county-fair.com/fair-schedule/.

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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