How to Enter Indiana State Fair: County 4 H Fair

What to Know for 4 H Club 

How do I enter the Indiana State Fair? Want to know, we've got answers and all details of what to expect during your first year of 4 H. Enjoy!

How to Enter Indiana State Fair: County 4 H Fair
How to Enter Indiana State Fair: County 4 H Fair.

When  I was kid, I won first prize at the county fair for a giant Sunflower head. It must have been in open class, because I wasn't in 4 H at the time (that I recall). I entered some art projects too, the goal was to make it to the Indiana State Fair. I don't remember the results. I've had a few things on display at the fair since then.

How to Enter Indiana State Fair: County 4 H Fair
Bumble Foot Poultry Poster, Reserve Champion.

For several years, I worked at a living history museum. We presented various items at the State Fair. But when it came time for my kids to enter the fair, I was at a total loss. Memory failed me. How do you enter the Indiana State Fair? Do you have to be in a 4 H Club? Well, yes and no. It isn't as difficult as I made it out to be, but it isn't easy either.

What to Know for 4 H Club
Small Engine Poster, Champion.

As homeschoolers, we joined a local county 4 H Club in 2013. I wanted the kids to have some sort of extra curricular activity and interaction with other kids their own age. We pulled out all the stops. In other words, we did it the hard way. I'm writing this so you don't have to jump through hoops to have a State Fair experience.  To me, 4 H meant animals, so we got some chickens and ducks.

What to Know for 4 H Club
Chicken with Bumblefoot.

That first year, we were very unprepared to present. We were just so confused. Our club is made up of mostly homeschoolers. At the monthly meetings, you learn about activities that you can present at the county fair. Projects and animals that win at the county fair (Grand Champions) get a pass to the State Fair. This doesn't mean you have to enter the county fair to get to the state fair, but it makes things a little easier and more likely that you'll place. You can always enter in OPEN CLASS. You can do this at the county fair too.

Rooster crowing contest, judges and contestants

Roosters crowing to win.

During the Rooster Crowing Contest, their were older gentleman participating next to kids as young as eight years old. There were avid gardeners competing against my son's garden project.

Hear them crow?

Not much crowing activity.

There's a lot to consider when deciding what to enter. You can enter almost anything! In fact, there is even a project category entitled, Create Your own Thing.

Lemon Thyme, Honor Group.

The most popular categories seem to be cake decorating, recipes, and household pets. The lines for entry were long.

This looks like a good place to sit. Baby bunnies were for sale at the fair.

We were so nervous that we did nothing our first year. We acted as observers. Our second year, we decided to pick some projects, but had no idea what to choose. We settled on: Gardening, Small Engines, Recycling, Poultry, Cats, and Create Your own Thing.

Check out the frozen water bottle used as an air-conditioner.

How to Enter Indiana State Fair: County 4 H Fair
Love these bunnies! Jersey Woolly. I used to have one just like this His name was Yoda.

There is no cost to be in the club. Meetings start in August and run through May. However, if you want to participate in the fair, you'll need to officially sign up. The fees are project based. We paid $15 per child, plus project handbooks. If you have more than 3/4 you pay a flat family rate of $45. The books costs 2-5$.

We attended every meeting that first year. I always felt completely lost. I was so worried I was doing it all wrong. When it came time to turn in our completion cards for official documentation, I thought we had to have our projects completed. We weren't ready. Some of our projects had group leaders and meetings, but others never had a formal activity. I think this is largely based on availability of volunteers. Our group leader could only point us in the directions of the extension office or a name of someone she knew who had been in charge of particular club in the past. 

For example, we never heard anything from anyone about small engines. It turns out, that's okay. As the parent or caregiver, you can be in the "coach" you can help guide the activities and sign the project manuals. If you don't feel comfortable, you can also find someone in your life that is skilled in that area to act as a mentor. Lucky for us, we had a Daddy who knew a thing or two about engines. The books aren't easy, but don't be afraid to ask help from your friend, Google.

Unfortunately, when it came time to get our records approved, I got confused again. I heard that the projects didn't have to be done by then (though they should) which translated to I didn't need to take our project books with us. I was so frustrated by all of the requirements and lack of formal guidance that after waiting in line for over an hour for approval,  I gave up. The leader was very kind and offered to meet us another time and place but I had a hard year and life was just too much for me. We didn't even turn in our record sheets. So, we lost a whole year of "official" 4 H service. 

We have the experience, we can say that we've been in 4 H since 2013, but there are no official records and when it comes time for a five year pin, we'll be a year behind. So, this year, our second year, we'll be honored with our first year status. I was more upset than the kids. They didn't care. They don't care. That day, all they cared about was getting out of the heat.

So, year two rolled around and I was determined to see it through. We attended all meetings again. We kept track of emails and snail mail correspondence, but I still felt like something was missing. I'm still trying to figure out how to join Archery Club. Apparently, I take things a little too seriously. 

What I found was that each club has its own set of rules, each club leader his or her own level of seriousness about the project. The Poultry Project requires attendance at all meetings. It is essential to learn everything you need to know about caring for the animals at the fair and testing for illness. 

Cat Club. Not so much. The first year, we didn't get the paperwork for the entry until it was too late to enter. The next year, we got it, but decided against it. The club doesn't even meet until  just before the fair. We felt lost, but we weren't. After much consideration, we decided none of our cats would be good contestants. We did order a cat club t-shirt and make it to the Cat Show. It was very laid back.

So, how does or should the process go? Here's a quick run down, so you'll know what to expect at the County Fair.

Join your local 4 H Club --- or your favorite club. We live smack in the middle of 3 clubs, so we picked our favorite.

Attend fun cub meetings once per month. Learn about 4 H, play games, and make friends.

Don't worry about anything in the fall.

In the Spring, think about what you want to enter in the fair or an activity you would enjoy.

Go to 4H online.  Find the 4H handbooks for various projects.

Sign up for a few projects by the deadline.

Check for emails and snail mail from group leaders. If they don't come, check the monthly 4 H newsletter for meeting details or club events. 

Attend these! While you are attending, complete your project workbooks. Have your parent or a club leader (they'll probably tell you that your parent can do it) review and check your work.

Meet with your local club leader. Make sure you have completed the correct amount of activities in your project workbook. In most cases it is 6 per year. One book is good for 1- 3 years. Your leader will review it and mark it completed on your record sheet.

MAKE SURE to bring the RECORD SHEET to this meeting.

If you are doing posters or other projects do not bring them to this meeting. This is only for project manual completion and attendance at meetings.

Based on what you've done and learned in your project manual, you'll be growing a plant, caring for an animal, sewing, cooking, drawing, painting, photographing, or making a poster detailing how to do something. For the guidelines, you'll need to refer the 4 H HANDBOOK - this is NOT the same thing as the project workbook. That's why, the workbook will make you crazy trying to understand what is required for fair entry.

READ your Handbook carefully. There are lots of rules. For example, plants can't be older than 4 months -- read carefully, each plant specimen may have its own guidelines. We followed the rule, but my son got confused and said he transplanted in March. It was end of May. March was too cold, but he almost got disqualified for being confused! Lucky he didn't, because his plant got a blue ribbon and landed in Honor Group.

So, we got our records turned in with or club leader, we got or tags and parking passes, now we were ready to roll.

All we needed to do was complete our projects. We had already decided what they'd be about. They were floating ideas in our heads, but we never seemed to find the time to start them. So... two days before they were due at the fair, we were working on them in a frenzy. 

The kids reviewed their project manuals, came up with a topic, did some research online, took some photos, and then wrote some text for each image. 

We missed some important details for the poster requirements. Pay attention to the size, the backing, the recommended size for the title... all of these things are considered when you meet with the judge.

Meet with the judge??? I am somehow still misinformed!!! So, when you arrive to check-in your project be sure to arrive on time. There will be lots of people from all of the cities of your county. Go at your time. Expect to wait in the check-in line and then in the line for each individual project. No worries. You just move from place to place as you complete the judging process. Look for the shortest lines.

I thought we were just turning in projects. We were, but they are judged at the same time. This isn't the official judging. This judge reviews your project and tells you how well you did and how you could have done better. 

This gives the kids the experience of presenting their work.

They give tips for your next project entry and then they give you a blue ribbon (first place) or a red ribbon (honorable mention). Seems like their was a small pink one too, but I don't know what that one meant.

Somehow, we got 3 blue ribbons for 3 projects. The kids felt like they cheated, because we'd been lost for so long and then did the project at the last minute. 

Blue ribbons? Everyone must get blue ribbons? Well, most do, but some don't. Particularly, if you have an animal - they have to meet the minimum requirements for the blue ribbons. 

So that's that? We won? Of course not. That WAS too easy.

Now, you go home. The next day, you come back to see how you did with the official judges. For indoor projects, you don't see this judging until it is all done. 

We came back to all sorts of fun ribbons! We had big, purple honors group ribbons. A big pink reserve champion and a big purple champion. 

Pink Reserve Champion means you placed second in your  age group or class.
Purple Champion means you placed first in your age group or class.

Honors group means you are in the running for reserve or grand champion (I think, I'm still a little confused because two of their projects got honors group ribbons, but the one that made champion didn't get an honors ribbon, I'm thinking it fell off, got stolen, or overlooked. When we returned to pick up the projects the champion without the honors ribbon had a sticker stating that it had been chose for the fair.

It is my understanding, that to be considered for the fair, you have to make it to honors group.

The bottom line... we had 3 STATE FAIR worthy projects. One got chosen.

We didn't get an orange tag for a free ticket to the 4 H banquet, but based on everything I read, I think we should have got one for each champion, I'll be sure to confirm next year. By the banquet, we were faired out anyway and didn't want to drive back another day - we live 30 minutes away.

So, we have one more thing to learn about the county 4 H fair next year. Plus, finding those archery/shooting club sports meetings.

Now, for the STATE FAIR. The paperwork said if you received a sticker for the State Fair you should stop by the fair extension office during the fair. We didn't have a sticker until we returned on Saturday and then the office was closed. I stressed some more. Then, I called Monday. The office let me know, that they were sending STATE FAIR packets out in the mail by Wednesday. Hope it doesn't get lost. It will tell us what we need to do for the state fair entry.

She let us know that our projects had to be at the fair by Sunday evening or Monday morning. I wonder if we'll meet judges again? It this just a drop off? We'll keep you posted.

ADS DISCLOSURE: We've partnered with some wonderful advertisers who may sponsor blog posts or send us samples to test. Some companies pay us to review their products. *We also use affiliate links, if you make a purchase we get a tiny commission. Kids Creative Chaos participates in the Amazon LLC Associates Program*, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a mean for blogs to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon properties, including, but not limited to,,,,, or We also offer Tapinfluence, Google Adsense, SoFab, and Izea ads here. Thanks so much for helping us keep the lights on! :)


Lora is a homeschooling mom, writer, creator of Kids Creative Chaos, and Director of the Play Connection.