Heather Apenhorst's quilted block is going to be entered in the Fillmore County Fair 4-H quilting competition.  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Heather Apenhorst's quilted block is going to be entered in the Fillmore County Fair 4-H quilting competition. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Jackie and Heather Apenhorst are back in the clover saddle again.

"I started when I was 7 years old," said Bloomfield Cloverleaves 4-H Club member Heather, anticipating the return of Fillmore County Fair week. "I wanted to do a horse project. This year, I'm looking forward to bringing my new horse, and I want to see how she does."

The sisters, daughters of Lynn and Lisa Apenhorst of the hamlet of Etna, have 4-H in their veins, reins, saddles and stirrups, and they're busy rounding up their horsemanship skills and general projects to show off at the fair, one of their favorite parts of being Cloverleaves.

Jackie, 16, became a 4-Her when she was 8 years old, and she "started because both my parents had been in it. Mom asked if I wanted to be in it. I asked, 'What is it?' and she told us to try it. We enjoy 4-H now."

Jackie's 4-H repertoire includes years of projects, such as home environment, purchased, constructed and second-time-around clothing, photography, arts and crafts, horse, horse-related, self-determined, club scrapbook and banner, favorite foods show, county demonstration, speech, club bench, holding office as club and county-wide president, being current president of the county horse project and more.

"I've been at the state horse show since sixth grade - judging, demonstration, speech, horse-related projects," she said. "I like being involved. I've met a lot of new friends through 4-H and I enjoy seeing them. I like the way 4-H is run. It's a great career builder."

This year, she's planning on taking her horse and horse-related projects, a home environment project, constructed and purchased clothing, photography and needlework to the Fillmore County Fair.

"A lot of projects I do have meaning to them. I like working with props like I'll be using in my home environment project. I like turning old things into new things that you can use." She continued, "I'm looking forward to being at the fair. It's always a family vacation, time to relax. If I'm nervous while showing my horse, it depends on what class we're in and what pattern we're doing, how my horse is acting at that moment. With my general projects, I know what I'm talking about, and it's not scary. I've worked all year getting my horse ready, getting my projects done. I feel ready to get paid off for what I've done at home to bring to the fair. It feels good to show them off. My favorite project is my horse, and my general project is horse, environment and clothing. I really enjoy home environment, and I like sewing, too. I just enjoy being involved the whole year."

Heather's shining up her English riding saddle and boots, but she's had numerous projects in the past, including photography, horse, clothing, horse training, horse-related, home environment, needlework, shop, quilting and arts and crafts, and she's been involved in almost the same club and county-wide projects as her older sister.

"I've done county demonstration, speech, favorite foods show, community pride projects, building sandboxes, growing a garden at the food shelf last year, been vice president of the club, sentinel and treasurer, and I'm vice president this year," she said.

She has a quilting project, and purchased and constructed clothing, photography, home environment, horse and horse-related projects to present at the fair, where she enjoys taking on the challenges of equestrian gaming, barrel racing and more. She likes "hanging out in horse barn, sleeping in the barn, showing, English riding, meeting a lot of new people and learning new things.

"We help set up and clean up, put up decorations in the horse barn, help the kids with rabbits show rabbits by holding them...but I like the cup stacking contest and the water fight we had one year," she said.

Since the Fillmore County Fair and the Olmsted County Fair are now held the same week, the Apenhorst household is particularly busy, but the sisters recommend hoofing it to the horse barn to visit with the 4-Hers who have worked very hard to build their equestrian skills and raise some ribbon-winning animals.

Editor's note: This is the first in a weekly series of three articles highlighting preparations by area families for the Fillmore County Fair.