MERCER COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Kentucky State Fair always brings a big crowd of people excited for a couple weeks of family fun.
However, beyond the games, rides, food, and attractions, some healthy competition can be found courtesy of Kentucky 4-H.
Hundreds of kids participated in several contests at this year’s fair, from speeches and demonstrations to the presentation of country ham.
For Raegan and Emerson Daniels, it was a week of reaping a lot of rewards.
The sisters both won their division in the Ham Speech contest. It’s the latest in a long line of victories over the years. More ribbons and plaques than you can count.
A lot accomplished for a 15-year-old and a 13-year-old. It’s a lot of work that has become a labor of love for these sisters.
“I really like seeing the county ham and the whole process and all the work that goes into it. I like to cure it, and to cook it, and to get it ready for the State Fair. It’s super fascinating,” Emerson Daniels said.
The star of the show tends to be the ham, but a lot rides on the literary skills of the person presenting the cut of the pig.
“In order to do the Country Ham Project and sell one of our county hams, we are required to participate in a speech contest and a demonstration contest along with the speech at the state fair,” Raegan Daniels said.
Winning these competitions is no easy task, Raegan and Emerson’s mom will tell you that.
Emily Daniels grew up in 4-H and is now doing what her mom did for her, encouraging the girls against their fellow students.
“It really is competitive. They start at the county level, then the area or region, and then they go to state,” Emily Daniels said.
“I’m as nervous as they are, probably more so, but I try not to show it.”
A county-level contest may have a few dozen students participating.
However, the state level is a different animal.
Raegan and Emerson beat out more than 800 other kids from across the state to win at the Kentucky State Fair.
It’s a feat Emily is so proud of, as winning at the fair becomes a strong family affair.
“It’s overwhelming for me because I’m so proud, and I’m just so happy for them that their hard work really is paying off,” Emily Daniels said
Emily is most proud of the skills her daughters are developing through 4-H.
Public speaking, confident communication leadership skills, etc.
It’s something Raegan and Emerson understand and appreciate as well.
What they learn goes well beyond what they bring home to the trophy case.
“I used to be extremely shy, so seeing how the speeches have helped me come out of that and gained these public speaking skills that I’ll be able to use for the rest of my life is really rewarding,” Raegan Daniels said.
“It’s really great having a buddy there by your side helping you with your speech and curing the ham. I guess you’re never really alone when you have a sister to do it with,” Emerson said.
The girls also often take their hams to auction after their competitions which can pull in around $800 for the young girls.