BERRIEN SPRINGS — Kennedy Melton set a goal when she was young that wouldn’t pay off until she was 20.
“Outstanding 20-year-old Exhibitor was one of the awards that I have dreamed of my entire life,” she said.
Well, that dream came true recently, when the Berrien County Youth Fair Board finally bestowed the award to Melton.
Selection of this award is based on a point system covering Youth Fair participation and volunteering other than fair week over the last six years of exhibiting. Melton received a trophy and a $300 scholarship award provided by the D. R. Potts Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Melton, now 21, graduated from Bridgman High School in 2017. She is currently studying nursing at Ferris State University. She grew up in Baroda, where her parents still live, and she has two younger siblings.
Herald-Palladium Staff Writer Alexandra Newman recently talked with Melton about her career in 4-H and winning this prestigious fair award.
First, I’d love to hear about your career in 4-H and showing at the fair.
I’ve been showing at the fair since I was 5 years old. I started off mainly with still projects. I think I started showing chickens when I was 6 or 7. That was really the only animal I did. Then, my mom promised me a rabbit if I won my chicken showmanship class. I studied so hard, won that class, and started my career with rabbits.
When I was 13 or 14, I started llamas and getting more involved in the large animal aspect of it. I tried doing more and more and more through the fair after that.
I, at one point, was showing in every still barn. I showed cats, rabbits, poultry, pocket pets, I had llamas; I showed goats one year. The last two years, I’ve shown swine. I kind of got into that game late, but I realized I really enjoyed it.
With rabbits, I really learned to love showmanship, showing my knowledge rather than just basing it on the rabbit itself. Through that, I was given the opportunity to go to Small Animal Sweepstakes multiple times. I think I went five separate times, won twice and got second the three other times.
I ran for fair queen in 2018. I ended up winning and I got the whole opportunity to give everyone trophies and celebrating their wins with them. That was a really big thing for me, because I had always wanted to be fair queen and to have that opportunity was an amazing time.
Fair has always been my go-to time of the year. People would say Christmas is their favorite holiday. My favorite holiday is fair week.
How did it feel finally winning this award?
It was my main goal to get to the point of showing so many different things and being in so many different barns that I could win it. I just got my name out there, and got recognized for so many different things that I showed interest in, and showed that I really did care about these projects and cared about the experience learning with these projects. It was just like, euphoric when I finally won the award.
My mom was sitting next to me and grabbed my arm and literally started crying at the meeting. It just meant a lot because it showed that people did realize the effort I put into it, and it’s been my life to be competing.
Even though I do get to show next year, because they made that agreement with everyone that was supposed to age out this year, my fair experience has definitely not ended and I’ll definitely come back and help with the different barns and committees.
How have you used what you learned in 4-H, and at the fair, in your adult life so far?
4-H and the fair has shown me how to speak up and demonstrate myself well in many different areas, like being president of my sorority, Phi Sigma Sigma.
Just with public speaking, or small conversational situations, it’s given me more confidence in doing those. And overall, the tasks. I’m a big quilter and would show my projects at the fair. People at college would ask me to sew up something for them, like a hole in a coat, and I would do it, but I would teach them how to do it, too, so the next time they’re able to do it themselves.
Being in 4-H, I’ve taken on many leadership roles, and helped the younger kids with their projects, and I think that’s another big thing that made me want to help people here at college with the little things.
What would your advice be to a young 4-H’er, who maybe also dreams of winning this award one day?
My advice would be to believe in yourself and focus on the now. Focus on the projects that you’re working on currently and how you want to grow as an exhibitor. Don’t miss out on the memories you’re going to make each year because they’ll mean a lot to you individually when the time does come for you to finish your fair experience.