SOLWAY - Deer Lake Flyers 4H members Haley, Hannah, Mya and Meray Eichstadt can't quite say if they look forward with more anticipation to Christmas or the Beltrami County Fair.
"Christmas is cheaper," said the girls' father, Eric Eichstadt.
"The fair is fun," said 11-year-old Mya.
"And it lasts longer," added Hannah, 13.
The girls are among 252 4H members in the 16 Beltrami County clubs who will deliver 2,457 projects for judging this week. The fair starts Wednesday and runs through Sunday.
Their parents, Eric and Heather Eichstadt, are trained adult volunteers who will serve as goat barn superintendents.
"Both of us go along and help with the clipping to get (goats) ready for the fair," Heather said.
"And we have a goat ed day," Eric said.
Although the family has been raising Boer goats, brown-and-white meat animals, for 10 years, none of the girls chose goats as their favorite projects.
Hannah couldn't choose just one project, so she picked horse and rabbit. Haley and Meray chose horse. And Mya dittoed rabbit - definitely not horse.
In addition to her livestock projects - horse, sheep and goats - Haley, 15, will play viola for performing arts and exhibit photography. She will play Bourree by G.F. Handel during the 2 p.m. Wednesday talent show.
Hannah will compete in livestock classes with horse, rabbit, goat and sheep, as well as photography, crafts and singing in the talent show. She also made a queen size Log Cabin pattern quilt in a flower theme, a 140-hour project. "It's called 'Please Don't Eat the Daisies,'" Hannah said.
Mya, 11, will show rabbit, sheep and goat, as well as photography, crafts and fine arts.
And Meray, 10, will compete with horse, goat, rabbit and sheep. She too will exhibit photography, crafts and fine arts.
Heather said 4H is a family tradition. "Their grandma did 4H, and I did 4H. It's just what we do. It really helps them grow. How to care for other things, the cycle of life and help other people."
Haley said 4H teaches leadership, and although there is competition, the exhibitors cooperate, too. She said she goes to the various barns and helps other exhibitors prepare their animals.
Ann Marie Ward, Beltrami County 4H program coordinator, said participation provides youth with valuable connections. She said 4hers know how to consult veterinarians, ask advice from the barn superintendents and other trained adults, present themselves and their projects to judges and plan food and nutrition, "for your animals and for yourselves. All of that connects."
But the best part of attending the meetings is "seeing our friends in 4H," Haley said.