EATON — Ross Lunsford and Heather Guehring grew up participating in the Family and Consumer Science side of 4-H competition during the Preble County Junior Fair, like many, under the tutelage of their late grandmother, Carol Lunsford.
Over the years, participation has dropped in the FCS categories, something they would both like to see change.
“We had about a third of what we had five years ago, which is a grand total of about 18 kids, participate in the Food Show and interview, and we had 10 participating in both the Cook Off and Mystery Mixer,” Guehring said of the 2022 cooking-related shows. Participants range in age from eight to 18.
“I think the biggest thing is that people don’t realize that with the Cook Off and Mystery Mixer, they also get to go to auction and make money,” she continued. “And with the cooking projects, they get the prizes from it. I just think they just look at it as an extra thing, like ‘I have to do a book and a portfolio and all that different stuff.’ But I think that there’s a good payoff with it.”
The cooking events aren’t advertised very well, either, she added. “ I think that falls on us as the advisors. I think it falls on lots of people — we just need to make it more known that it exists. We’ve talked with the advisors of basically the only four clubs that have the kids that participate in cooking. We had the advisors from those four clubs get together this morning, and we’ve talked about bringing back the Food & Fashion Board, basically the Junior Fair Board’s equivalent for cooking and sewing and miscellaneous.”
“Some of the stuff is like a lot of companies and a lot of things have going on — there’s fewer people doing more work,” Ross Lunsford added. “And it’s hard. Some things kind of slip through the cracks when you’re expected to take on an additional workload. And it’s tough. I think our goal is to try and supplement those cracks, fill them in and really help where we can. I think the Food & Fashion Board will help a lot with that because I know about 15 years ago we were upwards of 60 exhibitors in the Food Show and interview portion, and somewhere around 30 to 35 for the Cook Off and Mystery Mixer portions.”
Some cooking and sewing clubs have ceased to exist over the years, according to the two. One of the more popular cooking clubs this year was the Jackson Young Farmers. “And then another big one is Spic & Span Pots & Pans. They are the two really that are that have the highest numbers,” Guehring said.
“I think another thing is the agricultural part of the fair has always been popular,” Lunsford said. “It’s a huge part of the culture of Preble County but I really think that a good portion of the county doesn’t know — they haven’t been given this information on how valuable the skill of being able to provide for yourself with putting food together is.”
Guehring added, “I think a lot of people think the clothing projects are just sewing, like ‘I’m making a skirt,’ whereas they have ones that are about making the best outfit while spending the least amount, like Shopping Savvy, and they have ones that are called Designed by Me where you take an outfit and edit it and add things to it.”
Ross and Heather’s grandmother Carol Lunsford had a big impact on the cooking portion of the fair.
“Her effect has just blossomed and it’s not even just her — it’s her little things she’s taught so many kids and then they taught their kids, to the point where we don’t even have to say anything in a meeting. Kids that are coming up first-year are already doing something because it was her signature thing,” Guehring said.
Ross noted, “I remember specifically trying to get in just-enough trouble in Cloverbuds where I would be sent out to the actual club with the people who were old enough to be in 4-H, so that I could be around grandma. From a young age I really respected her and what she thought was important — and I thought, ‘ that is important.’ I kept that going. But to build on that, there were just a lot of things that she was able to teach us. Responsibility and you know — you sign up for a project, you finish the project, you take it to fair. You see everything through. Here are the skills that you can learn.
“She really focused on it when we were at cooking meetings — we would cook and prepare it safely. We would do everything, but also at the end of it. There’s a little bit of character building in my opinion. She made sure you had washed every dish and everything was clean before you went home. You didn’t take any dirty dishes home to mom and dad. And for me, that’s just the little things that build up in life. You just realize how small but important that can be. I just felt always supported by her to try new things.”
“Food was her love language,” Guehring added. “So, if somebody was sick, she’d be like, ‘I’ll bring you dinner.’ And if somebody had something joyous happened, she’s like, ‘Oh, I’ll bring cookies or a cake’ or whatever it is. So, for her this is the way of showing you care about people and showing progress.”
According to Guehring and Lunsford, Carol’s biggest ambition she said she never got to see through was wanting to be a teacher.
But those who were in her club knew she was, just not in the traditional fashion, they said.
This would have been Carol Lunsford’s 52nd year advising 4-H participants. The Carol Lunsford Outstanding of the Day Award is named in her honor, and was given for the first time last year.
“She got to see the first-ever Carol Lunsford Outstanding of the Day Award,” Guehring said. “She was here for it last year, and to not have her here unexpectedly this year, is hard. But I’m really glad that she got to see it because she was somebody who hated being recognized for any impact that she had at all.
“Now, thanks to the generosity of people that have donated to the Caroline Lunsford Memorial Fund, we can sponsor the prizes and things for years to come,” she continued.
Carol’s Cooking Corner has been established in the Tony Building in Carol Lunsford’s memory. Every year the Tony Building has existed and cooking competitions have occurred in it, she was in it, according to Ross Lunsford.
And Carol’s Cooking Corner will help that continue. All they needed are new 4-H participants to take part in the Food & Fashion section of the Junior Fair in the future.
Carol Lunsford died in April of this year. One of her greatest passions was the Preble County 4-H community — she was the Preble County Fair Queen in 1958 and founded and advised the Spic ‘N Span Pots ‘N Pans 4-H Club for more than 50 years, supporting the growth of hundreds of children along the way.
Donations to the Carol Lunsford 4-H Memorial can be made at any Twin Valley Bank branch.