4-H contest brings chickens, crafts to Toyota Park A taste of country life in Chicago at 4-H competition
Saturday, June 27, 2015
Chicago Tribune by Marwa Eltagouri
The small fair in the parking lot of Toyota Park boasted all the fixings of a typical carnival: noisy games, young girls hula-hooping while balancing their cotton candy sticks and the occasional whiff of buttery popcorn.
Around the corner from the bounce house, though, was a more curious scene. An 18-year-old sat in a lawn chair, texting on his phone while a large chicken nestled in his lap.
"Edward? Oh, he's so calm," said Malcolm Hawkins, raising the chicken to his face and ruffling the bird's breast feathers. Edward is one of Hawkins' seven chickens, which he alternatively houses at his former high school and his Auburn Gresham house.
"They live in the garage right now because I don't have a chicken coop yet," he said. "But I'm working on it."
Hawkins was one of about 200 children and teenagers in Bridgeview on Saturday for the Cook County 4-H Fair, a youth competition that judges hundreds of wildlife, gardening and farming projects.
While the 4-H program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is often associated with rural activities, the competition caters to Chicago's urban community by offering competitive categories in visual arts, woodworking, cooking, cake decorating and leadership, said Marilu Andon, youth development educator for the Cook County division of 4-H.
The daylong competition is open to youths ages 8 to 18 and consists of 4-H clubs from communities across the county. More than 1,000 projects were on display Saturday, including plants, birdhouses and sculptures.
Hawkins' project display consisted of several chickens in cages.
He said that his project is part of the animal science category, where judges assess how well competitors can care for farm animals as pets. Last year, Hawkins received the grand champion prize, which won him a ticket to the 4-H state competition.
He said that he first became interested in chickens during his sophomore year at Chicago High School for Agricultural Science, from which he just graduated. A teacher approved Hawkins' purchase of a chicken, which came shipped to him in a box.
"Since then, about seven people have dropped off chickens to me. People who had chickens but couldn't care for them, that sort of thing," he said. "And sometimes, I'll see a chicken that's just really pretty, and I have to have it."
In addition to chickens, Hawkins is interested in horses, which he learned how to care for and raise at school. He plans to attend Black Hawk College in Moline to study equestrian science.
"My end goal is to have a farm," he said.
Senior Emma Hasty, also a CHSAS student, has been participating in the 4-H fair for several years. While she lives in Chicago, she boards her horse, Jack, at a farm in Monee. She visits him every other day.
This year, she decided to enter a drawing in the visual arts category, as well as a few cactuses in the horticulture category.
"4-H allows me to do something with anything I'd like to," she said. "If I get too involved with my horse, then I can participate in the arts."
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