Winning ribbons is a major reason youngsters enter livestock and 4-H projects for judging at the Delaware County Fair.

Winning ribbons is a major reason youngsters enter livestock and 4-H projects for judging at the Delaware County Fair.

The weeklong event every September, however, means much more for most of them.

First, there's the social aspect.

"It's fun to hang with our friends and see everybody, some we don't see much of during the year," said Mariah Hastilow, 15 and a student at Big Walnut High School. "It's fun to show off your horse. ... But it's also time to support your friends."

Then there's the thrill of "showing off" all their hard work.

"The showmanship is probably the biggest reason I'm here," said 12-year-old Josiah Bale, who was manning the 4-H booth with his 15-year-old brother, Caleb, on Thursday morning. Caleb showed sheep this year and his brother showed his steer. Both boys are home-schooled and live in the Olentangy school district.

"Just getting in the ring is worth the whole year of work preparing," Josiah said.

"I get really excited when I get in the ring," Caleb said. It almost makes him forget all the work he puts in every summer in the heat, he said.

In addition to showing his steer, Josiah also brought his grandfather's 1953 Ford tractor that he spent the past four years restoring.

"It was a bucket of rust" before the restoration, Caleb said of the now-gleaming tractor.

The fair also gives the Junior Fair participants a chance to show off what they love to do.

"I love working with the animals and I really love to show them," said 14-year-old Maria Burger of Delaware, who also is home-schooled and entered the poultry, alpacas and goat categories. "I also like to see how well my animals do and how they've improved from year to year."

The fair also is about community service, said Junior Fair board member Knox Fields, 16, a student at Buckeye Valley High School. He served as this year's Junior Fair king.

"It's our chance to help Delaware County because the fair is one of the biggest things they have.

"The Junior Fair board plans throughout the year for the next fair. We try to improve it every year," he said.

This year, the Junior Fair board wanted to make sure the exhibitors had an opportunity to shine even more because last year's wind storm from Hurricane Ike curtailed many of the planned activities, said Junior Fair board member and fair princess Melissa Downerd, 17, a Buckeye Valley student.

This year, the Junior Fair added dog agility competitions to dog showmanship and obedience events, to increase the number of events youths could enter, she said.