The three-day Tazewell County 4-H Show and Jr. Fair kicked off Monday at the Cultural Arts Building, Livestock Arena, and Veterans Memorial Arena with beekeeping activities, a horse show, an ice cream eating contest and a grand opening ceremony.

The fair is the chance for 4-H members to proudly display their projects and hard work from the year. It was free to the public; food and beverages were available for purchase. 

This was the second fair for Tazewell County 4-H Program Coordinator Katharine Girone. She was enthusiastic about the public event.

“We have had great weather and awesome exhibitors,” she said. “We are impressed with the quality of work the kids bring with them.”

Displays of chalk art were inside the ice arena. Other visual arts were exhibited inside Parkside Athletics. Judges awarded ribbons for original colored pencil drawing, pencil drawing, acrylic, watercolor and 3-D mixed media.

The members of 4-H also showed off their projects in mechanical sciences, crops, plants and soils and clothing textiles.

Horseback riders with Central Illinois Riding Therapy paraded their skills in the Livestock Arena. Young children through senior citizens with some form of disability take lessons with CIRT in East Peoria once a week. Kathy Griffin is the volunteer coordinator with CIRT and said she has seen riders’ confidence levels increase over the years they spend riding horses.

“If they feel they can control a 1,000-pound animal, they figure they can do more,” she said. “We take people with all disabilities — social, emotional and physical. We also have a veterans program, and they ride for free.”

Griffin said she knows children with autism who have connected with the horses in a way they have not connected with people. Some riders use this therapy as a way to strengthen their cores. There are several adult riders with multiple sclerosis and people with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Ava Gensler, 8, from Washington has been riding with CIRT for six years. Gensler participated in the horse show on the horse named Magic.

“Riding is my favorite,” Gensler said. “They’re so cute.”

Later that evening was the grand opening ceremony. There was the Royalty Contest, Fashion Review and cake auction. The Tazewell County Farm Bureau sponsored an ice cream social with entertainment by Steve Bianchi to end the first day.

The title of 2017 Tazewell County Fair Queen was awarded to Carson Goff of rural Hopedale. She and fellow contestant Kiersten Rodman competed for this year’s title.

Goff, a 20-year-old pursuing a degree in agriculture accounting, has enjoyed being in 4-H for the past 12 years and likes showing livestock.

Rodman, also a 4-H member, resides in Armington and will be a senior in high school this fall.

Six girls participated in the Fashion Review. Ashlyn Allen and Sydney Webb were awarded first premium and a blue ribbon in their age categories.

Tuesday was a busy day at the 4-H Show and Jr. Fair. There was a poultry show, cat show and goat show. Patricia Winston is a veterinarian at Pekin Veterinary Clinic and judged the cat show.

Three girls showed their cats that morning. Nell Grove, 11, brought her cat Mary. This was Grove’s third cat show.

“It’s really fun, and it shows people that animals other than livestock can be shown,” Grove said.

Grove was awarded first premium and a blue ribbon in her beginner age group.

Elaine Horner, 12, brought her cat Mozart. This was her third year showing cats, too. She was awarded second premium and a blue ribbon.

Alivia Byers, 17, of Tremont brought Leo.

“I love cats,” she said. “We have rescued cats, and I’ve grown up with cats. It’s fun having cats.”

Byers was awarded first premium, a blue ribbon and the overall trophy.

The Kiddie Tractor Pull was also Tuesday. Amy Patterson of Pekin brought her children to the 4-H Show as she has the last few years. Her 7-year-old daughter Lainey tried the tractor pull for the first time.

Patterson said they have animals at home and is thinking about having Lainey join 4-H.

Wednesday wrapped up the annual fair with the swine, dog, dairy, beef, sheep and rabbit shows. Other activities included the Safe Escape House, water balloon toss, potato rolling contest, antique tractor pull and youth project auction.