First-year 4-Her Gabe Cross didn’t know what a blue honors ribbon was, but he has one now.

Gabe explained his project to Jeff Boner, who judged projects in the self-determined category Friday, July 12, on the first day of pre-judging for this year’s Boone County 4-H Fair.

4-Hers stood face-to-face with the judges to learn how they had done and how to improve for next year.

Gabe, 10, turned in a model dairy farm scene he’d worked on for two weeks straight, his mother, Kristine Cross of rural Lebanon, said. Joseph and Kristine Cross live with their children Gabe, Sara and Jane on a homestead farm north of Lebanon and have two Holstein steers.

The whole Cross family, 2-month-old Jane in a stroller, came to see Gabe’s project be judged at a distance. It was Gabe’s first year to face a judge in person.

Boner, of Indianapolis, asked Gabe how he made the barn look aged, how he made the tiny cardboard hay bales in his model pickup truck, and what breed of plastic cattle were on his model farm. They were Holsteins, like at home.

“We used a lot of spray paint,” Gabe said.

“I did this project because I wanted to learn about dairy farms,” Gabe told Boner, showing him his project notebook that contained photos of the Jamestown dairy farm where his grandmother grew up.

He then replaced the notebook on the table, asking Boner, “Is there anything else you want to ask me?”

“This fence is so imaginative,” Boner told Gabe. “I love it. You are going to have a hard time improving next year. This is phenomenal. … I’m excited about these bushes and trees you made and that you can tell me how you did them.

“I’m giving you a blue honor. That’s as high as I can give you right now,” Boner told Gabe, who nodded with a serious face, but who had no idea what a blue honor meant.

Boner walked Gabe back to his parents to also tell them just what a good job he’d done and that his ability to explain the details he included blew Boner away.

Someone later explained to Gabe what a blue honor meant, and he finally cracked a smile.

Bethany Worrell, 14, of Lebanon, was all smiles on the other side of the building after Kevin George of Covington judged her first woodworking project, a portable gun rack.

She modeled it after gun racks she’d seen used in shooting sports.

Bethany said she’s not very good at art, but woodworking lets her express herself artistically, and she earned a blue ribbon for her effort.

She’ll be back with another woodworking project next year and will use George’s tips to improve her project.

Isabella Binder of Zionsville earned a blue ribbon for her oil painting.

Fine arts judge Sharon Albean of Indianapolis complimented Isabella’s use of glitter on oil paint.

Isabella, in her second year of 4-H, said she learned the first year to fill the canvas with paint and leave no white spaces. Oil paints make it easier to fill the canvas, she said.

Ten-year member Alexis Stephens helped project leaders check projects into the building.

She said the face-to-face judging doesn’t bother her anymore. In fact, she finds the judges’ advice helpful.

“I’ve been through it 10 years, and it’s not as nerve-wracking as it was the first few years,” she said.

At the other end of the spectrum, Lane Merrill of Thorntown was there with his wooden revolver for his second year of Mini-4-H.

He was very proud that all the parts — the barrel, trigger and hammer — moved independently, like on the cap gun from which his father, Josh Merrill, helped him model his gun.

Lane’s favorite part of the project? “I learned how to measure wood and metal,” he said.

The Boone County 4-H Fair kicks off July 20 and runs through July 26. The annual parade starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the Boone County Highway Department and works it way to the fairgrounds. Following the parade, there will be a flag raising and opening ceremonies in the Center Circle at the fairgrounds.

Miss Boone County will be crowned in a pageant that starts at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Witham Health Services Pavilion at the fairgrounds.

Just the facts

WHAT: Boone County 4-H Fair

WHEN: July 20-26

WHERE: Boone County 4-H Fairgrounds, County Road 100 South and Indianapolis Avenue in Lebanon

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