MAXWELL, Iowa — The summer of 2020 looks a lot different than Maddox Weigel and Austin Boege expected.
“I miss seeing my friends, it’s been a long few months,” said Weigel.
Particularly when their favorite events were cancelled.
“Just pretty sad when I learned that the state fair was not going on,” said Weigel. “Because usually I go about every day. So I was pretty upset.”
“I was pretty sad because I enjoy going to the fair and seeing all that stuff and all the animals,” added Boege.
The pair came up with a way to continue some of their favorite traditions.
“I show pigs and chickens,” said Boege.
“I have a lot of fun showing cows, goats,” said Weigel. “I’m hoping I can show the donkeys and the chickens next year.”
There’s also starting new ones. The 12-year-old 4-Hers and their friends are taking part in their own fair-themed contests online, hosting things like an animal costume contest.
“It’s funny to see how they look once we dress them up,” exclaimed Weigel.
“I enjoy doing it because I usually don’t do all this stuff,” said Boege.
The “stuff” has some challenges.
“Their ears make it a little bit of a problem, but sometimes the ears help because with the bow tie we can hook it on their ears,” said Weigel.
“The pigs will probably roll around in the dirt or something,” said Boege. “When I go get it on, I’ll be surprised because they’ll probably shake it off or something. They’re not very tolerant of stuff.”
But the efforts are already proving to be worthwhile.
“We thought we should keep the fair spirit alive,” said Weigel.
It started with an ugly cake contest.
“So our cake we called it the ‘Rona Brain. We made like somebody’s head and then we cut the top out and put like worms and ugly stuff in it to make it look like it’s somebody’s brain,” said Weigel. “My mom shared it on Facebook and asked people to make their own cake and we ended up having five entries.”
“I think it’s important for kids to still have opportunities to do all the fun things the fair usually brings for them,” said Maddox’s mother, Gwen Pross.
For both boys, 4-H is a family affair.
“My dad was in 4-H and he showed pigs a lot too,” said Boege.
“A lot of my great grandparents, my great grandma, my grandma and my mom were all in 4-H. My grandpa also,” added Weigel.
“It’s always been a part of our life for a very long time and I always say that it’s more than just showing animals at the fair,” said Pross. “Through 4-H I’ve personally gained a lot of skills.”
Pross credits the organization for teaching her and her son things like responsibility.
“For Maddox we’re out here every day doing chores. He knows that you don’t eat until the animals eat because they come first.”
“Usually I have to wash them and I feed my cow, get her halter on, tie her up and then wash her. I have a blower that I blow her out with. Walk her around a little bit and then I’ll set her feed up and stand there with her for a little bit,” said Weigel. “Then I’ll let her off the rope, let her off to the pasture.”
“They’re responsible for another life, so they know how important that is and I think, too, just the interactions with the animals helps them to be more empathetic and caring,” adds Pross.
She says this translates to helping others.
“When I was a 4-Her, we did a lot of volunteering in the community, and so just all the skills that you gain through 4-H, I think that’s important now for my child to get.”
They’re life lessons that can’t be put on pause because of a pandemic. After the Animal Costume Contest, the boys will compete in butter sculpting and create their own food on a stick. In the end, the goal is both entertainment and awareness.
“The fair is fun but also it’s for people to know that 4-H is a big part of that fair and even though I feel like sometimes it’s overlooked,” said Pross.
These “for fun” contests will continue virtually throughout the summer.
“I think they like the part, too, of getting votes. We did it where you get the likes on Facebook and those are your votes,” said Pross. “That competitive part makes it fun, too.”
While the kids are competing for reactions online, the goal is to keep the fair spirit alive.
“I have pictures of the kids who have participated and the smiles on their faces, so even though I haven’t been there to see them personally, I know that kids are enjoying it and having fun,” says Pross.