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A larger stage at the State Fair

Landree Callies, 11, of Howard, tends to her sheep, Oreo, prior to competition Saturday afternoon at the State Fair in Huron. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)

HURON — For local 4-H participants the State Fair is an opportunity to show off animals they've been working with for months.

And, for many, it's in front of a larger crowd than what they encounter at county fairs, making the experience one that they anticipate year-round.

Eleven-year-old Landree Callies, of Howard, participated in her second State Fair 4-H show over the weekend and said it was just as fun as the first time.

"When I go home after State Fair, I'm all mad because I have to leave and wait another whole year before I come back," Callies said. "I wait for it all year."

But, this year's fair also brought growth for Callies, who showed sheep for the first time.

Callies said she has learned over time what it takes to have a great showing, and likes to learn by watching some of the older, more experienced 4-H participants. Callies thinks the most important factors of showing are knowing the anatomy of the animal and having a strong relationship with the animals they work with.

Although the State Fair — attracting hundreds of people daily — is significantly larger than the Miner County Fair, Callies said, the various ways to spend free time is what truly sets the two fairs apart.

"There's rides, there's really good food and you get to talk to all kinds of people and see all kinds of pens of animals," Callies said.

Payton Vellek, Tori Vellek, Madison Fairley and Zachary Roesler agreed with Callies.

Payton Vellek, 15, who has been involved in 4-H for seven years, said attending multiple state fairs has helped her make dozens of friends she never would have met otherwise.

More important, she said, are the interpersonal skills she has gained through 4-H.

"The judge (Friday) asked what the most important thing I've learned from showing goats and I told him that, in order to be a good showman, you have to be yourself and not try to be somebody that you're not," Vellek said. "It's given me more confidence in myself as a person."

But, for some, the pressure of competing in a small, close-knit community trumps the sheer size of the State Fair in Huron because the audience's focus is honed in on a smaller area, Vellek said.

In recent years, the State Fair has allowed anybody to participate in the 4-H competition without having to qualify at a county fair, which Vellek believes has drove more people to attend the event.

"A few years ago, you could be here on Wednesday and you could walk for a mile and not see a person," Vellek said. "You just see more people in general, not even just with 4-H."