By Leah Sander
WARSAW — Showing animals at the fair is a big deal for children and teens.
Those with special needs got that opportunity on Wednesday, July 14, at the Kosciusko County Fair, during the Poss-Abilities Showcase.
Six kids and teens with special needs showed various animals with the help of mentors.
Former 4-Her Mikaela Bixler started the program in the county six years ago. (Last year’s program was not held due to COVID-19.)
“I had just finished 10 years of 4-H and I just kind of had noticed that there was kind of a gap in our county and I wanted to be able to provide another stepping stone for all youth of all backgrounds and abilities to be able to participate in 4-H opportunities,” she said.
“There’s already a lot of youth of all abilities in 4-H, but this really provides an opportunity for kids who probably would have never have done 4-H before to get involved,” she added. “(Participant Skylar Payton’s) family says that Skylar never would have been involved without Poss-Abilities.”
Kids sign up for the program and note what animal they wish to show. They are assigned mentors who own the animals the kids show.
“They do at least three farm visits before the showcase,” said Bixler. “We try to get them to work with the animals as much as possible beforehand, so it’s safe for everybody.”
Magical Meadows therapeutic horseback riding center Executive Director Carl Adams served as judge. Though the event was not competitive like other fair animal shows, Adams did ask the kids and teens questions about the animals they showed.
He asked for applause for the youth at the end of the show.
“Just think what it takes for an able-bodied individual and the time it takes for the animals that they do and then just recognize what a struggle it is at times for these guys,” Adams told the audience, asking for a second round of applause for the youth.
The participating youth may not have cared about the extra applause and seemed to enjoy the experience.
“Good,” was what participant Hannah Kohler of Warsaw said of the experience of getting to show a goat. She’s been showing for four to five years, said her mother Jennifer Kohler. Hannah Kohler’s mentor on Wednesday was actually her sister Abbi Kohler.
Jennifer Kohler raved on the program.
“I think Poss-Abilities is an amazing program,” she said. “I think it teaches others to be more open to the idea of letting kids with disabilities do more and show them that they can do more and that they can do things that we can.”
Prizes were awarded in the Pie Baking Contest at the fair on Wednesday.
Two of the winners had different experiences leading up to their entering for the first time in it this year.
Donna Neer, Atwood, who placed second with her peach crumb pie noted that baking has been a longtime activity for her.
“My kids kept telling me to enter,” she said of the contest. Baking for her is a family legacy.
“I’m following in my mom’s footsteps, who’s not with us any longer,” she said.
By contrast, Isabella Silva of Warsaw, who won the 2021 Queen’s Choice Award, came to baking more so in the last year.
“I actually got into baking over quarantine stuff,” she said. “Just about a yearish is where I’ve been perfecting it.”
Silva said she chose to make a strawberry peach pie partially related to her family.
“My family’s thing is a lot of strawberry and peach cobbler, so (my mom was) just like, ‘Well, turn it into a pie,'” she said.
Placing first in the contest was Maureen Mauzy and third was Rebecca Tusing. As the contest wasn’t held last year, a 2020 Queen’s Choice Award was also given out. That also went to Mauzy.
Wednesday was Senior Day at the fair.
Seniors who came could enjoy breakfast and an ice cream social. There were also special entertainers and bingo.