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Good time hanging around the 4-H barns

The promotional posters call the Hubbard County Fair the "5 Greatest Days of Summer." That's certainly debatable depending on our present situations and motivations but the phrase certainly holds true to many.

The 122nd Annual Shell Prairie Agricultural Association's county fair had a lot going, maybe not necessarily the five greatest days of summer for everyone, but certainly something for just about all of us.

A twist cone or two, or three, and a pork burger are absolute fair musts for this guy. That and I did go on the new ride, "Rock It," which was a big hit on the Midway this year. Thankfully I did that ride before I had chow.

Thursday's talent show was great and we're hearing for the most part good things about the grandstand events - motocross, rodeo, tractor pull and demo derby.

The Hubbard County 4-H clubs are growing and getting stronger each year, and that was evident all week long. I'm told that hasn't always been the case so it's great to see all the 4-Hers, their parents, and volunteers participating. 4-H is a huge part of our classic county fair. Love to see all the youth working and showing their animals from chickens to rabbits to pigs to cows.

The 4-H drill team rode with precision and skill carrying flags and riding various formations to put on a good exhibition in the horse arena Friday. It's good to see that program expanding.

4-H youth and parents were outside the first couple days spraying, scrubbing, brushing and grooming their animals for show on Thursday and Friday. These boys and girls put far more time and energy into caring for the animals than most of us realize. 4-H is a family affair and it's fun to observe the dedication and here the stories.

Renee Manlove was excited to share her family's story on Friday. Renee is married to Kenny Manlove and they have a 6-year-old son Oliver. Oliver's calf was born on Easter Sunday. Two years ago that calf's mother was born on Easter Sunday.

This was Oliver's first year showing and the Manlove family, who operate Manlove Farms on Long Lake near Hubbard, has deep roots in 4-H. Renee talks fast, and I imagine was a little faster than usual due to fair livestock show adrenaline when she shared her story in the barn on Friday. She was understandably excited for Oliver and praised husband Kenny's long-time involvement in 4-H. This is all coming from Renee, as I wasn't asking any pressing personal questions. Kenny is 60 years old and was with the Hubbard Rustlers club growing up through age 18 and beyond.

Kenny was 54 when he and Renee had young Oliver, who represents fourth generation 4-H. Kenny's mother, Gail, was in 4-H, as was Gail's mother. The club is now called the Hubbard Prairie Dogs. I asked when and why did the name change but quickly got the sense I shouldn't dig any deeper into that inquiry. I don't need to fire up any 4-H controversy on the Hubbard Prairie.

Renee is a talker and eager to share information. Kenny is much more quiet. She's from the Iron Range, him a native Hubbard County guy.

"We're polar opposites," Renee tells me.

So how did you end up here from the Iron Range, I simply asked? Renee was quick to explain her and Kenny met online nine years ago and they married eight years ago. Without skipping a beat, Renee told me Kenny is one of two founders of Hubbard First Response. That fact was corroborated by Kenny's mother, Gail, who interjected along with a neighbor who was standing on the other side of me. She seemed to want to stay out of the conversation but couldn't resist talking about Kenny's role with Hubbard First Response.

I'm not sure how young Oliver ended up showing his calf but I did enjoy visiting with Renee and learning about how 4-H has been such a big part of the Manlove family's lives.

Walking through the barns and reading the entries there are a lot of recognizable 4-H family names around the animals big and small. Whether it's talking to the Pikes around their steers, Kowalkes and the pigs or the DeBlieck kids at the rabbit show, I look forward to next year's visit.

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