DeOje Johnson, 14, makes sure the sheep are taken care of, holds a rabbit for a few moments and then heads out to stroke Precious, the horse under his care.
Johnson is one of many 4-H members around the county fine-tuning animals or indoor projects in the few weeks before the Roosevelt County Fair, scheduled for the week of Aug. 23.
County 4-H Agent Melanie Gutierrez said 4-H members have a fairgrounds clean-up day Tuesday. They’re checking to see if animals need more or less feed, making sure pigs are at the proper weight and finishing last-minute jobs before school starts, she said.
For crafts and other exhibits, Gutierrez said, some members would start their work soon, while others are done.
Johnson, a fourth-year member of 4-H, said he planned to compete in sheep, horse and rabbit shows this year. He has been working with the animals for months.
“It’s fun and hard sometimes,” he said. “It’s a lot of hard work. But it’ll all be worth it.”
Johnson said he was nervous about the fair but knew he had a good chance of winning.
Wes Weems directs the 4-H club at the New Mexico Baptist Children’s Home, where Johnson lives. He said the home has 4-H members working on a variety of indoor and animal projects.
For the first few weeks with the animals, Weems said, he and other staff members taught the 4-H members how to care for the creatures. Now, the adults supervise while the youth work.
With the fair nearing, the home’s 4-H members are setting feed rations and have learned to shear sheep and show cattle. Weems plans to have them practice grooming and showmanship soon.
“Right now, it’s just kind of get things ready to go and maintain the animals, try to keep them fresh,” Weems said.
Third-year 4-H member Hannah Bilbrey, 11, of Kenna said she’d done about eight indoor projects and was raising goats, rabbits and chickens.
Hannah said she was looking forward to showing her animals. Getting those animals cleaned and ready is the hardest part, she said, but her favorite part is making sure the rabbits are perfect.
The girl said her family helps a lot. Her mother, Cody Bilbrey, said they’d been spending all their spare time on fair entries, but she wanted to let her daughter experience all the areas, decide what she was interested in and learn new skills.
Cody Bilbrey had learned sewing along with her daughter.
“And it’s a really nice experience getting to do things together,” she said.