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More than pride: 4-H'ers show off variety of creations at this year's Kandiyohi County Fair

Susan Kuseske, a judge in the 4-H garment category at this year's Kandiyohi County Fair, critiques a sundress entered Tuesday by Korissa Lindquist, 12, of Kerkhoven, right, at the Kandiyohi County Fairgrounds in Willmar. TOP: Charity Bengston, 16, of Spicer goes over her entry in the photography category.

When Alissa Stai, 19, creates 4-H projects to show at the county fair, she doesn't settle for ordinary. That would be too boring.

Instead, she thinks big. Really big. So big that for one of her projects this year, she decided to build her own, one-of-a-kind tractor.

"This is something that I did that I take pride in," said Stai, of New London. "I don't think too many people could build a tractor."

She didn't start from scratch, of course, but it took a bit of work to find the right parts and put them together, she said. She also had a little help from her dad, someone she calls "a tractor fanatic."

Stai and her father spent much of last summer working on the tractor, combining the rear end of an Allis-Chalmers WF model and the front end of an Allis-Chalmers RC.

She calls her finished tractor an RF, and said that most people wouldn't even know it was custom-made just by looking at it.

"I don't think many people (at the fair) know that Allis-Chalmers didn't make the RF," Stai said. "When I bring it to tractor shows, though, it will be neat, because everyone there knows tractors."

Stai was just one of about 260 children and young adults who showed their 4-H exhibitions at the Kandiyohi County Fairgrounds Tuesday afternoon. Many of the 4-H'ers had spent an entire year working on projects and creations for this year's fair.

Sisters Erin and Erica Osterbauer, of Kerkhoven, brought almost 30 projects to show between the two of them.

They've both been participating in 4-H and showing exhibits for four years, so they knew what to expect when interviewing with the judges.

"It's not that bad," Erin, 17, said of the interviews. 4-H'ers must meet with an expert judge to explain and answer questions about each of the projects they wish to show at the fair. For Erin, that meant handling almost 20 interviews Tuesday.

"Mostly, they just want to make sure you know what you're talking about," she said. "Nothing to be nervous about."

Her sister agreed. "It's pretty easy," said Erica, 13. "It's actually pretty fun."

Laura Hauser, 13, also has plenty of experience in showing 4-H projects. She's been participating in Kerkhoven's Mamre Merrymakers 4-H Club for four years.

"It's really fun," Hauser said of her 4-H group. "You get to hang out and make new friends."

One of Laura's 4-H projects this year was a nature kit complete with binoculars made from toilet paper rolls and duct tape, and a net for catching butterflies. She said she was inspired to make this kit because of a girl she used to babysit.

"I wanted to make this kit because I babysat a girl once who wanted to catch a butterfly, and I didn't know what to do," Laura said. "Now, she won't be disappointed if I babysit her again!"

More than 60 4-H exhibition categories exist, and many were represented at the fairgrounds Tuesday, according to Jodi Bakke, 4-H program coordinator for Kandiyohi County.

"4-H is not just for farm kids," Bakke said. "Many of these kids don't come from a farm background or have horses and hogs. They still put a lot of time into (their projects)."

Today, the 4-H'ers will find out whose projects were awarded top honors: a purple grand champion ribbon and a chance to enter the Minnesota State Fair.

Alissa Stai, who already won a blue ribbon for her one-of-a-kind tractor, hopes she can add a purple one and get the chance to show off her creation at the State Fair. She thinks she deserves it because -- well, because she built a tractor.

"I think it's the most outstanding tractor project here," Stai said. "It still needs a coat of paint, but I'm pretty proud of it."

Ashley White

Ashley White is the community content coordinator for the West Central Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @Ashley_WCT.

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