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4-H and FFA exhibits signal start to Floyd County Fair

  • Julia Whipple (left) and Carly O'Donnell of the Nora Springs Rolling Stones 4-H club, get ready to show their sewing projects to the judges at the Floyd County Fair on Tuesday. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • 4-H and FFA members showed their exhibits to the judges on Tuesday at the Floyd County Fair. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • 4-H and FFA members showed their exhibits to the judges on Tuesday at the Floyd County Fair. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • Jodie Sindlinger stands near her bench that she completed for the Charles City FFA. This was the first year that Sindlinger had competed in the non-livestock judging portion of the Floyd County Fair as an FFA member. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • Jane Larson (foreground) hands out ribbons for winning contestants at the Floyd County Fair on Tuesday. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

By Kelly Terpstra,

July is fair time for many counties across the state of Iowa.

Floyd County is no exception.

That often translates into hot, muggy and wet weather.

It was all three on Tuesday at the Floyd County Fairgrounds just outside Charles City as Mother Nature hit the trifecta.

Fairgoers and their animals should prepare for more of the same as 100-degree heat indexes and possible precipitation looms in the forecast for the remainder of fair week.

“There’s always a storm during girls state basketball and it always rains during county fair. That’s just how it works,” said FFA advisor Bret Spurgin.

Although the official opening day of the fair isn’t until today (Wednesday), all non-livestock FFA and 4-H judging took place at the Gil and Donna White Charles City FFA Youth Enrichment Center.

The short afternoon downpour didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirit.

“We like doing fun things together,” said Nora Springs’ Carly O’Donnell.

O’Donnell, along with her friend Julia Whipple, are soon-to-be Central Springs eighth graders and are members of the Nora Springs Rolling Stones 4-H club. Each waited patiently to present their sewing projects to discerning judges in an effort to snare a purple or blue ribbon.

Purple ribbons can qualify entrants into the Iowa State Fair next month in Des Moines.

O’Donnell said this is her second year in the sewing competition and she has yet to get a purple ribbon. Her project was an Iowa State pillowcase.

Whipple’s work was a Redwork embroidery Santa quilt. She said she won a purple ribbon last year.

“If they find everything that they want, then they might consider you for state,” said Whipple.

Whipple and O’Donnell said they were both anxious and nervous in anticipation of presenting their handiwork to the judges.

That’s just part of growing up in a fair that stresses youth participation according to longtime Charles City FFA advisor Jim Lundberg. He said other counties might focus more on grandstand events or carnival rides than showing animals or exhibits. Floyd County has those, too.

“This county has always kept their focus on the youth,” said Lundberg.

Lundberg said this is the 37th Floyd County Fair he has participated in and help run. He may not conjure up memories of every single one, but he won’t soon forget the 2019 rendition.

“It seems like yesterday it started,” said Lundberg. “This one will probably stick out as one I’ll remember.”

It hasn’t even been two months since a Memorial Day tornado ripped through the fairgrounds and ravaged buildings and property on the site that first hosted the fair in 1955.

The brick building – which held countless fair events, shows, dances and pageants over the course of a half century – was turned to rubble after 100-mile-plus winds came ripping down from the sky. Several other buildings on the grounds were also heavily damaged or had to be demolished.

“I’ll be honest. That brick building had a lot of sentimental value to a lot of people, including myself,” said Lundberg.

It’s just been a little over two years since the YEC’s grand opening. Without the multi-purpose structure there may have been no fair at all this year.

“It would have been a very limited fair,” said Lundberg.

Spurgin agreed.

“It would have been tough. It would have been really hard,” said Spurgin. “We wouldn’t have been able to have a lot of these projects. We wouldn’t have had anywhere to put them.”

The Floyd County Fair Board meets next month to determine the path to rebuild for upcoming fairs. They’ll be many fairgoers that will recall past fairs fondly, but at the same time looking ahead to the future.

“It’s the end of an era and the beginning of another one,” said Spurgin. “Next year we have our new buildings where we’re able to do different things and make the changes that we’ve been wanting to make but haven’t had the opportunity to.”

Lundberg felt very thankful that the YEC was a lifesaver when it came to this year’s fair in more ways than one.

“The only flushable toilets on the fairgrounds are in this building,” Lundberg laughed. “It’s going to get a lot of traffic.”

He mentioned that one of the only buildings left standing in a famous photo taken of the 1968 Charles City tornado by former Floyd County Sheriff L.L. Lane is the horticulture building. Lundberg says it has 28 holes in the roof and leaks like a sieve after getting damaged by this spring’s tornado. The building will be torn down after the fair ends.

“It is a new beginning. People have a pretty good attitude about it,” said Lundberg. “I think Gil and Donna White would be pretty pleased to know this building (YEC) is playing such an important role.”

There were approximately 170 youth participants (4-H and FFA) that had entries submitted on Tuesday. Sprurgin said 58 total FFA members are competing at the fair this week, 24 of them in the non-livestock judging.

There were many age groups that comprised FFA and 4-H clubs with names like Lost Llamas, Charles City Angels, Union Busy Bees and Riverton Lucky Clovers.

Jodie Sindlinger, a recent Charles City High School grad and standout athlete for the Comets, was one such participant. The future Iowa State Cyclone, who will study food science in Ames, was approached by Spurgin and Lundberg to join the FFA. She didn’t hesitate and is happy she made the decision to become a first-time competitor in this year’s fair in the non-livestock judged exhibits.

“I wish I did start earlier. I’ve always been around to help, but I’ve never actually done it because I didn’t think I had enough time. But it’s not that hard to make time,” said Sindlinger.

Sindlinger made a white bench that she started constructing last month.

“Jim and I worked with her on it. She did all the cutting, all the measuring and putting it together herself. We just kind of guided her,” said Spurgin.

The Comet basketball, volleyball and tennis star also joined in and sang in a musical for the first time in her final senior season at CCHS.

Her advice to anyone who may be apprehensive in undertaking new challenges?

“I say just go for it. Don’t wait for your last time to start things, because you’ll regret that,” smiled Sindlinger.