4-H holds life-changing event for DD, provides many benefits

For Amber Averwater, the 2023 Clermont County Fair Queen, helping organize an event where individuals from the Clermont County Board of Developmental Disabilities (DD) got to show animals and enjoy a day at the fair was just one of many pluses of her 4-H experience.

“The joy and excitement was infectious,” said Averwater, 19, a 2022 Clermont Northeastern graduate. “Their smiles were ear to ear. I’m very grateful we were able to bring that joy to them.”

The project involving individuals from the Clermont County DD was called A Day in the Ring. About 15 people, ages 10 to 40 with a spectrum of disabilities, selected and named an animal, learned about the breed, and proudly came into the ring to show it to a panel of judges.

Judges asked what the animal’s name was, the shower’s name, their favorite fair food, and what they learned about the animal such as what the animal is used for.

“It was pretty special,” said Averwater, noting that 4-Hers donated their time and their animals to show. She credited Cindy Stegbauer, a consultant on Junior Fair Board, for advocating for the event and coordinating with DD.

Averwater, who lives on a small farm with goats and chickens outside of Owensville, has been in 4-H for 14 years. Over the years, she has shown mainly beef cows, hogs and dairy goats each July at the Clermont County Fair.

She is president of the Clermont County Junior Fair Board and vice president of the Select 4-Hers club. 

Being Fair Queen this year “has been quite a blessing,” she said. Her main job is to represent and advocate for the fair. 

“From that grows a boatload of opportunities,” Averwater said. “You get to visit county fairs across Ohio to represent your fair. The end goal is to run against other county fair queens to become the Ohio Fairs Queen. It’s a big competition and I’m trying my best to win.”

Opportunities include helping at fairs, assisting children, and being a teacher and educator about agriculture. This year, she has visited about 15 county fairs. She has been to around 40 over the past three years, due to being a fair queen runner-up.

Next year, Averwater plans to go to Wilmington College to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, with a focus in livestock evaluation. She wants to become an extension educator and livestock judge. She works in customer service for Paul Hall and Associates Insurance in Mt. Orab at this time. She also is a high school wrestling official with the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

As Queen, she encourages other fairs to hold A Day in the Ring for their DD populations. 

“It really is life-changing,” Averwater said. “What amazed me was that something second nature to me meant the world to them. For them, it made their entire day, entire month, entire year. It created  a huge impact.”

Averwater has a lot of pride in the Clermont County Fair, its impact on the community, and its long and vibrant history since 1849. She admires its ability to adapt to keep drawing good crowds year after year. She also speaks highly of 4-H.

4-H is for everybody,” she said. “You don’t have to be a farmer to participate. You can borrow somebody else’s animal. You can do archery, cooking, sewing, science, tech. There is something for everyone there. It’s not for any one particular group of people.

“Not only does it teach you timeless and traditional skills you need in life, but it teaches leadership, communication, responsibility and creativity. It allows for a lot of public service, volunteering. It allows kids to interact with other people that you may not see otherwise. It helps kids to socialize and interact with other kids their age from throughout the county.”

As queen, she has been able to talk to people from throughout the state. 

4-H allows you to go up to a stranger and share your common interest in fair-related issues,” she said. “It makes the world not seem so big. I am able to connect with 4-Hers from all across Ohio and all across America. It’s so cool to see there is somebody who I can relate to as a 4-Her and through FFA (Future Farmers of America).”

This past fair season was her last in 4-H. This year, she hands off the Junior Fair Board President title. Next July, she will hand off her Clermont County crown.

“I’m grateful for the 4-H experience and proud of the work we do on projects like A Day in the Ring,” she said.