CARTHAGE, Mo. — The annual county fairs allow many 4-H and FFA members to showcase their agricultural skills and hard work, but it also gives them a sense of accomplishment to be part of something bigger than themselves.

Carthage Municipal Park was buzzing with activity Monday as exhibitors and volunteers worked together to set up pins, cages and bedding for the animals during the workday at the Jasper County Youth Fair. The event will continue throughout the week and wrap up Saturday night.

Korbin Fast, 16, an upcoming junior at Jasper High School, helped unload and arrange metal dividers to construct pins in anticipation of the animal shows slated later in the week. He’s been involved in 4-H for several years and currently serves as a regional representative of the State 4-H Council.

The junior is one of four representatives from Southwest Missouri who attend state councils to discuss and share different ideas for 4-H. The representatives were selected in May during the State 4-H Congress at Columbia.

Fast said he’s looking forward to serving as a collective voice for the 4-H members in Jasper County.

“It’s a lot of responsibility to take on, but I also know that I’m helping our community and other 4-H members by being in this role,” he said. “I want to help younger members at the fair and try to help out as much as possible. I’d also like to see how people feel about the fair and things they’d like to see changed.”

Sam Coats, 10, of Carl Junction, is a Spring River 4-H member who will be competing in the Jasper County Youth Fair for the first time this year. While having mixed feelings of nervousness and excitement to show his goat, Squirmy, on Wednesday, he aims to take home second or third place.

Maddie and Will Coats, Sam's older siblings, have shown goats throughout the years and have been helping him every step of the way, he said. "Since my brother and sister had goats, I wanted to see how I would do this year, and I might choose to go next year,” he said. “They give me a lot of tips, and they’ll help me wash my goat and prepare for the show.”

Coats said he’s been involved in 4-H for about three years and has already learned a tremendous amount about himself.

“It pushes me to my limits and even over my limits,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of friends, and it has made me tougher.”

Christine Waldbuesser, of Jasper, helped her daughter, Scotty, 10, prepare for Tuesday's rabbit show. The mother said she’s excited to see Scotty show in the fair because she did the same thing at her age.

“This is her second year showing, and she showed guinea pigs over the weekend,” Christine Waldbuesser said. “I showed all through my teens, and it’s fun to pass that on. I hope that she gets more interested in it and goes farther than I did.”

Brett Rockers, 15, of Carthage, helped bring in rabbit cages and set up panels Monday morning. Showing in the fair is a family tradition for the Rockers, and he’s following in the footsteps of his three older sisters with his involvement in 4-H and FFA.

Rockers will be showing four goats on Wednesday, and he said there’s no other experience like it.

“In the Jasper County Fair, everyone knows each other because we’re all from this area,” he said. “We come back every year to pick up where we left off. It’s so fun to talk to people and show animals. All of that work you do over the summer pays off at the end.”

Sarah Townley, youth program associate for University of Missouri Extension in Jasper County, said being involved in 4-H and the fairs growing up helped shape her education and career path. Since it made such a positive impact on her life, she wanted to come back and work with upcoming 4-Hers to help them reach their full potential.

“I knew for several years that this is what I wanted to do because of the experience that I had and how it changed my life,” Townley said. “I wanted to be able to do that for a lot of other kids.”

News reporter

Kimberly Barker is a news reporter for The Globe who covers Northeast Oklahoma, Southeast Kansas, as well as Carl Junction and Webb City.