State Fair Exhibits Questions & Answers 2006

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State Fair Exhibits

Questions & Answers 2006

Prepared by Mitchell Hoyer

4-H Youth Development Program Coordinator
Each year brings a new set of questions from 4-H members, families, and extension staff. Here are some questions from previous years we thought would also be useful for 4-H members, families, and exhibit judges. If you have an exhibit question, contact your local extension office or send your questions to me at

General Exhibit questions

Q. One of our 4-H members refinished a pair of wooden skis. She wants to enter them in woodworking but I don’t think that’s right. Where can the skis be exhibited in our fair classes?

A. All together now – “It depends on the goal!” Does she intend to display them or use them? Why did she refinish them? You are partially right regarding woodworking classes. Class 461A Woodworking is for new construction and would not be an appropriate class for a refinished or refurbished wooden item. Depending on the goal, this could be a 461B exhibit if she is going to discuss the technique in detail. Depending on the goal, the member could make a connection with skis and skiing to the Health or Recreation project areas. And yes, it could be an exhibit in 891A Self-Determined. She will need to tailor her exhibit, display, and responses to questions to fit her goal and exhibit class

Q. A 4-H'er created a spread sheet that has a home inventory on it. She is trying to figure out if it would be best to enter it in Computer or in Home Imp. If HI which area; home maintenance?

A. Key question - why did the member create the spread sheet? IF it was to learn how to use a spreadsheet - then likely a computer class entry. IF it was created to manage/track/something with the home inventory, and she happened to use a computer instead of pencil and paper - then not a computer exhibit, but more likely Home Improvement or Consumer Management. Whether it might be a HI 531E (Maintenance) or HI 531F (other) entry, or CM 541A (Consumer Plans & Record Keeping) depends on the answer to the question - why did she create the spread sheet? How will it be used? What is the purpose? If her answer is to track home inventory for insurance type reasons, then consumer management should probably be given stronger consideration.

Q. I grew ornamental corn and want to exhibit the ears at our fair. What 4-H exhibit class do I enter?

A. There is not a place to simply exhibit the ears of corn within the Horticulture specimen classes (beans, peas, tomatoes, radishes, etc.). A member could exhibit specimen ears of the ornamental corn as part of a larger exhibit within class 711A Horticulture. (See the above question on tomato plants for a similar question.) Topics such as cultivation/care of ornamental corn, uses of the corn, history of, colors of, experiment on selecting for specific colors, etc., would be appropriate for a class 711A exhibit. Use of specimens could be a nice visual to accompany such an exhibit.

If the member made the ears into some type of ornamental decoration for use in the home, the resulting decoration could be exhibited as part of a Home Improvement exhibit. The member will need to discuss elements and principles of design, how this decoration fits the room scheme, how colors accent or complement, etc.
Q. Three members in our 4-H club prepared a group exhibit. Two of the members are in 8th grade and the other is in 4th grade. Can this exhibit be selected for the state fair?

A. No. All participants in the exhibit must be of 4-H state fair participation age for the exhibit to be selected for state fair. The only exceptions are a total club Share The Fun (which has a percentage requirement), and we would allow the selection of an exhibit that was truly a total club exhibit. Congratulate the three members on a great exhibit, thank the older members for the effort to involve and help a younger member with exhibits, encourage them all to work together again, and tell them that hopefully they’ll have an opportunity for state fair selection with another group exhibit when they all are of state fair exhibition age.

Q. I restored an old toy pedal tractor. Does this go in the 441A Tractor class (Repaired or Restored Tractor)?

A. No. A pedal tractor is a toy tractor. Class 441A is for “working” tractors. Since restoration usually involves several techniques and processes, one possible exhibit class would be Class 601A (Other Science Mechanics and Engineering Ideas). There may be other choices depending on the exhibitor’s goals.

Q. I have a 4-H member who created a Powerpoint presentation and would like to exhibit it at our county fair. Is this possible? She is thinking about entering it at a Self-Determined exhibit or possibly a Communications exhibit.

Q. We have a couple members who created web sites and want to exhibit their work. In what classes could this fit?

A. Refer to the “Computer” section for a similar question regarding computers. The short version of that answer is the goal determines the class. If the goal was to learn the program, or learn the techniques to create a web site, then class 901 "Computer" is an appropriate class. If the goal was to create a presentation and demonstrate electronic technology as a communication tool, then class 811A "Communication" might be appropriate. Or, if the goal was to create a presentation or web site about a specific topic, and the member chose to do this be creating the web page, then a class related to the topic might be best. It all depends on the goal. These could be Self-Determined exhibits, but if they fit a specific project area, it is nearly always best that they be entered in the project area. Don't let Self-Determined be a "dumping ground" class.

Q. I made a quilt out of an old bedspread and sample material (from sample books) that I got from my Grandma. I want to exhibit the quilt at the fair. Can I enter it in the recyclable category?

A. This clearly fits into one of the clothing or home-improvement classes as an outgrowth of work within those project areas. Now, which one? What is/was your goal? Ask yourself these questions: - Why did you make this quilt? and Why did you choose these materials or this process? The answers should help guide your decision.

From the information provided, it appears you wanted to make a quilt. The recycling part is secondary to the making and design of the quilt. Where would you enter the quilt if it weren’t made from an old bedspread and samples? Most likely you would consider Home Improvement 531D "Fabrics in the Home" or Clothing 511A "Clothing Design and Creative Sewing". The difference would be for HI more emphasis is placed on the design of the quilt, how it fits within the room where used/displayed, etc. and in Clothing more emphasis on the quality of the construction technique. Design elements and principles are important for both, and quality of construction is still important in HI.
If the goal was specifically to make an item from old/unused/scrap material, then maybe it could be an entry in 531E "Maintenance in the Home". You will need to discuss more than just "I made this from old material". You will also need to discuss the how, the why, the importance of recycling material. Just because an item is made from recycled parts does not make it a good entry in this class. You could also convince me that Clothing 511D "Other Clothing and Sewing Ideas" is appropriate, with the discussion around using reclaimed materials if that was your primary goal. This may actually be a better option than the HI 531E class.
Q. Can my two kids do a Citizenship project jointly and prepare a joint fair exhibit? They are going to sell a homemade product and donate the proceeds to the town swimming pool remodeling project. Can they do their exhibit report together or do they need to do everything separately?

A. They can do this together. Fair exhibits may be done by an individual or group. They could prepare one “report” and one set of responses to the four questions (What was the goal, what did you do, what did you learn, what next), or they might each prepare a separate set of responses, even though this is one exhibit.

Why might they respond separately? Perhaps they had different goals, maybe the two members learned different things, maybe they had different roles in the activity, any number of things. This may not be something they can determine until later. In any event, they will want to discuss not only what they did, but what they learned about citizenship through the activity. How did this activity help them become a better citizen? What did they learn about themselves as a result? What will they do with this information/knowledge in the future, how will they apply what they learned?
Q. I have a girl in my 4-H club that has refurbished a manure spreader with her dad. What project does this go under? It is not a tractor or an automobile. Does it just go under Self Determined?

A. The appropriate exhibit class depends on the member's goal. There are several options, however self-determined is NOT a good choice. Project work and exhibits that relate to one of the specific project areas should be completed and exhibited in the project area most closely related and not dumped into self-determined. A machinery restoration clearly can be an outgrowth of one of the other project areas.

When you say "with her dad", one of the questions I have is what role did her dad have in the restoration? Did they work together on all of it? Did her dad do part and the member did part? Did the member do the work and relied on her dad for guidance? Just what did the member do? We believe youth working with and learning from adults is very appropriate in 4-H work. However, the 4-H fair exhibit should represent the member's work.
One appropriate place for exhibits representing "joint" project work (youth and adults) is the 4-H Family/Historical Heritage class. This is the one class where youth are expected to involve adults in the goals and work of the activities. For a restored manure spreader to fit, they would not only work together to restore, but would need to discuss why this manure spreader. Is there a history, a family connection, was this the first spreader grandpa used, something that connects the 4-H'er to the spreader.
As we think about other exhibit classes, the young lady first needs to answer the questions - Why did I restore this manure spreader? What was my purpose? What did I want to learn? Was it to use her woodworking, welding, and other mechanical skills to restore the spreader to working condition? Perhaps she wanted to restore it, park it in the yard, landscape around it, plant flowers in it, and use as a landscape feature. These are two very different goals.
Assuming the goal was to mechanically restore the manure spreader, depending on construction of the spreader, she likely used woodworking skills, welding skills, used a variety of tools, paint, etc. in the restoration process. The restoration is easily an outgrowth of work related to woodworking, welding, or both. In any case, it is related to Science, Mechanics, and Engineering, and could be exhibited in the SME 601A class, "Other SME Idea". This is a good class for project work involving combinations of skills from multiple project areas, and is a good example of why we have an "Other" class in each of the exhibit departments. If the spreader is wooden and her part of the work was in the restoration of the wood parts, an exhibit in Woodworking 461B class (display, idea, techniques, etc.) could be appropriate. Likewise, if it is a metal spreader and she used extensive welding skills, the Welding class 411 could be used. Most likely, the 601A class is the best option.
If the goal is to park it and use for a decorative yard feature, then Horticulture 711B "Home Grounds Improvement" works. She'll need to discuss how it fits with the landscape design, or how it was used as a focal part of the design. The evaluation criteria would not be on the restoration of the spreader, but how it works as part of landscape design.
Q. I have a 4-H'er whose grandfather taught him how to make knives out of chisel blades from a cultivator. Can he exhibit the knives at the fair or not? I couldn't find a rule about knives being included in an exhibit, but wanted to be sure. And if he can, what safety precautions should he take?

A. If the exhibit should be selected for the state fair, the knives stay home. That seems somewhat harsh and restrictive, but that is in keeping with the Iowa State Fair policies of no weapons on the grounds and no exceptions.

Let's address it from a county perspective. The knives could be included. Safety is a prime concern and there are several things you, and the member, need to address. If the knives are to be publicly displayed, how will they be secured to A) prevent theft and B) prevent injury to those viewing the exhibit? What precautions do you want the member to take when bringing the exhibit to be judged? Check in on arrival? Secure knives until judging? Procedure after judging? If the decision is to allow the knives for judging (which makes some sense in a judge being able to see the end result), but then remove the knives from the fairgrounds and not display them, the rest of the display should be sufficient enough to stand alone to tell the story. This might be a good example where a poster to show the process, along with appropriate photos, makes a better educational display than the actual knives.
If the exhibit is strong enough that the judge is considering for state fair, (and the knives were part of the evaluation), he/she needs to be aware that the knives will not be allowed at the state fair and the evaluation will be based on the remainder of the exhibit.
Q. I have a club leader who is going to purchase these lawn or garden type ornaments that are made out of concrete and will look like 3 parts of caterpillar (worm) when placed in the lawn or garden. Each 4-H'er in the club will be painting their own. She wanted to make sure that the kids were entered in the correct exhibit class in order to take to our county fair. Would these be visual art exhibits (not sure if it would be original art or pre-determined) or Home Improvement as “Accessories for the Home” as they would be using it outside, but still on their own property?

A. That's nice. I'm sure they'll be colorful. But what is the purpose of the activity? How does it relate to the goals - "What I want to learn" - members (should) have already set for the projects they have already enrolled in? From what you've described, there appears to be little input into the activity by the 4-H members, and it would seem they have no decisions to make other than color of their caterpillar.

The appropriate class may vary with the individual member. It could be a visual arts exhibit. It would not be exhibited in the original art class as this is not something truly of the 4-H'ers creation. It could be exhibited in the 821B Technique class, with the technique being painting & design on concrete with paint appropriate for outside use. They would discuss the color, design, choice of materials, etc. they used for their caterpillar, why they chose it, what design elements/principles used - all the things that go with any other exhibit in the visual arts.
Home Improvement is not an appropriate exhibit class. While we could extend the home improvement exhibits to include the immediate front porch, the home yard does not fit.
It would seem that Horticulture - Home Grounds Improvement would be a far better fit for most of these 4-H'ers. Home grounds improvement has long been a part of the Horticulture exhibit class, and for 2005, a separate 711B class is established for Home Grounds Improvement. (see the January State Fair Handbook updates for details). We would expect entries in this class to include decks, complete landscape designs, small ponds, possibly garden sculpture (depending on the goals), and yes, even decorative concrete caterpillars. They will need to discuss why a caterpillar for their yard, where it goes, how it fits the design, etc.
And finally, it could be nothing at all. Not everything a 4-H'er does as part of their 4-H activities or 4-H project work needs to be (or should be) exhibited at a fair. This would be a stronger activity if the members had some choice about what item to choose (caterpillar, bird, turtle, frog, alien, etc.), or if the members take what they learn, and then apply it to another item of their own choosing. Be sure to inform the county fair judges at your orientation that they likely will be seeing several decorative caterpillars as a result of a group project activity.
Q. Scrapbooking is a hot trend. In what exhibit class should scrapbooks be entered?

A. This is going to be a rather long answer to a seemingly short question. Start at the beginning. Fair exhibits are to be an outgrowth from work in a project area. (You might want to refer the member/leader to publications 4H-203-C "Strengthening Goal-Centered Learning in the Exhibit Experience (for 4-H'ers)" and the companion piece for Volunteers 4H-203-A.) In what projects is the member enrolled? What are the member goals for learning about/working with "scrapbooks"? Then we move to the exhibit goals. How can the member show what was learned in their project work through a fair exhibit? What is it about the scrapbook that demonstrates/tells what they learned? Why a scrapbook?

The best exhibit class for a "scrapbook" very much depends on the goal(s) of the member. There is no one best answer that fits every member or every scrapbook. However, there are some exhibit classes that are likely to be a better fit than others.
If the goal of preparing a scrapbook is to demonstrate what the member has learned about visual design, creative visual/artistic techniques, use of a scrapbook as art, etc., then the Visual Arts class 821B (Design/Technique Exploration) might be a good fit. The member will discuss what they learned about stamping, cutting, shapes, color, texture, how they used the tools/techniques to develop a theme, steps involved, etc. for visually enhancing the information to be displayed in the scrapbook. There should be some elements of individual creativity used if the scrapbook is displayed as an example of their work. This is probably the most common exhibit class for members who wish to exhibit their scrapbook techniques.
Somewhat related is Visual Arts class 821C (Other Visual Arts Topics). A member who has a goal of informing others about the "scrapbooking craft trend", why people like it, what's involved, what's needed, career opportunities in scrapbooking (e.g. the company reps, home parties), etc., could prepare an exhibit appropriate for this class.
Perhaps the goal is to educate with the information about work in a project, and a scrapbook is simply used as a tool to display/organize the information. For example, a scrapbook about a leadership activity/project work; a scrapbook about safety education; a scrapbook about clothing design. In this case, the appropriate exhibit class is the one related to the information - leadership, safety, or clothing. The evaluation is based on the goal related to the project work with little emphasis on the creative aspect (if used) of the scrapbook pages.
A member in photography could have a goal of exploring ways to display and exhibit photos. They explore scrapbooks as one method of displaying and exhibiting, and create and exhibit related to what they learned as they worked on their goal. They might discuss the when, how, where, etc. of scrapbooking/scrapbooks as a method of displaying/preserving photographs. An exhibit in Photography class 851D (Other Photo Idea) might be appropriate, and evaluation of the exhibit is based on their goal as it related to their project learnings.
Maybe the member has all their photos in shoeboxes taking up valuable closet space. Their goal is to organize the closet and they use scrapbooks to organize the photos. Now we could have an outgrowth of the Home Improvement project, and class 531E (Maintenance in the Home) is appropriate. Or perhaps the goal is to have an attractive item to be displayed in the family living room. Think decorative, coffee table book, etc. Home Improvement class 531C (Accessories for the Home) could be a choice if the reason for the scrapbook is to accent the room decor. I think few members would choose this option, but again, depending on the goals, it might fit for someone.
Help members work through and set project goals and exhibit goals, help them think through the "why" of their exhibits, and help them explore options so they can make their own choices.
Q. In what fair class do table settings go? Are menus needed?

A. The two most common classes would be F&N 521B or HI 531C. First, sometimes we need to remind leaders/parents/members that we do not have a "place setting" exhibit class. Years ago we did, but we haven't had one for some time. Which gets us to the why - why does the member want to exhibit a place setting? What is the purpose? What is the exhibit goal? Help the member work through the "why" and we should be better able to get the exhibit placed in an appropriate class, and hopefully help the member have a stronger exhibit.

If the exhibit is an outgrowth of food & nutrition work, and the goal is for an exhibit related to menu planning & food service, then yes, a menu is certainly needed. But don't stop with including a menu. We expect the member to tell us why those menu choices were made, how they fit with the family/individual diet, how those choices meet nutritional needs. Is this a one time special meal or a "regular meal"? What are portion sizes? For example, a member preparing a display with a traditional mid-western Thanksgiving meal (turkey, dressing, potatoes, pie, salad, veggies, appetizers, etc.) would be well advised to clearly articulate this is a one-time special meal, address the high caloric content in the meal, discuss how it fits into normal choices, discuss how portion sizes using this menu can be modified, or perhaps even modify the ingredients to have the meal be a healthier choice. (not that there's anything inherently unhealthy about turkey and dressing and gravy as long as we watch how much we eat!) Then the member can discuss what table setting options were chosen and why.
The only example I can think of quick that would not involve a menu for an exhibit in the F&N class would be one focused strictly on the functionality of items. Types of forks, proper way to set the table, different glassware for different beverages, accessibility issues, etc. An actual place setting may not be the best choice to illustrate some of those.
If the exhibit is an outgrowth of Home Improvement, we're likely looking at the accessories class. The member will still discuss a little about why they chose these items to go with the menu. What they'll really get into is how the table setting fits with the decor - of the meal, of the kitchen, etc. Perhaps it's a multi-function setting, one that can be used for several events. Whatever it is, they need to discuss it. They'll include design elements and art principles - color, line, shape - how that all adds to the ambiance of the meal, the room, the event. Why did they choose this style and shape glass for this formal meal? Is it appropriate? That kind of thing.
And there could be exhibits including a place setting that would fit other exhibit classes. I can think of ways for a member working in child development to discuss/display items for children in the Child Development exhibit area.
The "display box" dimensions for other exhibits do not apply to table settings. If they exhibit a place/table setting, they will arrange it using the space needed. The only reason a "box" would be needed is to hold the items in place. At the Iowa State Fair, it would be displayed on a shelf inside a display case with no box. If a box is used for the county, just size it to accommodate the place setting.

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