Kalvert Shiner didn't want to make the skirt she was entering as her annual 4-H project from a traditional pattern. She wanted to go for the gusto and design her own.
"It was a unique idea, and I think the judges will hold that in my favor," she said.
Shiner, 18, was one of the 200 Routt County 4-H members who attended the annual 4-H Exhibit Day Saturday at Soroco High School. The event gives 4-Hers a chance to show off and defend their projects with hopes of being selected to advance to the Colorado State Fair at the end of the month in Pueblo.
Shiner, who has been competing in the clothing unit for six years, decided to make her skirt using one of her sister's store-bought skirts as a pattern. She thought her interview went well.
"I've had that particular judge before, and she is really open to new ideas and suggestions," she said.
Clothing judge Iris Franklin has been judging 4-H projects for 25 years and said she tries to make the interviews with the members a learning experience.
"I encourage them to try new things and give them an opportunity to learn something," she said.
Franklin said the projects, which ranged from skirts to dresses to a robe, are judged on the pattern used, fabric choice, construction and how well the article of clothing looks.
Colorado Extension Office Agent Debbie Alpe, one of the event organizers, said though the day is organized around competition, most members participate because they have fun and learn other important skills from being in 4-H, such as time management.
"Some kids learn year to year what they need to get their projects done. We also have some kids who finished their projects last night," she said.
Alpe said there were about 160 projects presented and an additional 40 participants in the evening fashion revue.
Members, including Shiner, were able to model their fashion creations during a runway show at the end of the day.
The fashion show was one of the highlights of the day, and took place before a full house.
Alpe said 4-Hers come from all across Routt County and from 13 clubs.
Alpe said that among the things 4-H stresses are family involvement and generational learning.
She said that grandparents and parents who were 4-H members as youths now help their children and guide them through the projects.
"4-H is all about blending the young generations with the older generations," she said.
Alpe noted how vital youth mentors are in helping 4-H members get interested in the program, pick a project and follow through with it.
Members can pick one or more projects beginning Oct. 1, but Alpe said most members select their projects in January.
Members can do anything from woodwork, leather craft, photography, and cake decorating to fashion design, welding and entomology.
Last year, 85 projects were selected to be displayed at the State Fair in Pueblo.
Alpe is looking forward to sending just as many this year.
"We always have a reserve or grand champion from Routt County in something at the fair," she said.
Some members participate in demonstrations units, where they are required to present an informational package on a topic of their choice to a judge and a small audience.
Kimberly Rossi, 14; her bother, Michael Rossi, 12; and their cousin, Sarajane Rossi, 14; made a presentation on bovine identification and then had to defend their presentation.
The girls have worked together for six years and have won the team presentation award every single year.
"We love to speak in front of people and give demonstrations," Sarajane Rossi said.
Susan Rossi, Kim and Michael's mom, said that it takes a lot of work for the members to do a project but it gets easier to support them the older they get.
"We just try to be there to support them because they enjoy doing it on their own," she said.
--To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail email@example.com