Children typically enjoy the Kansas State Fair, which, this year is Sept. 11-20. And, thanks to a change in a Kansas 4-H policy, nine-year olds may have a new reason to smile – and enjoy the fair, a Kansas 4-H spokesperson said.

In past years, a Kansas 4-H member had to earn the top award (either a state fair blue or purple ribbon) in a project category at the county or district fair and be 10 years of age in order to exhibit at the Kansas State Fair, said Justin Wiebers, Kansas State University Research and Extension 4-H specialist.

This year, in an effort to expand opportunities for youth and their accomplishments, the age has been adjusted to include nine-year-olds who earn top project awards, Wiebers said.

“A project participant’s success reflects significant growth and development,” he said. “And, while earning the opportunity to exhibit at the Kansas State Fair can be a culmination of years of effort, encouraging participation also is thought to be a building block in developing life skills and interests.”

“A 4-H project often serves as the foundation for a career interest or lifelong hobby,” Wiebers said.

Successful projects will be on display in 4-H Centennial Hall, which is located at the north end of the fairgrounds. The building will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sept. 11-19, and from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Sept. 20 (closing day).

“Everyone is welcome,” said Wiebers, who noted that no prior experience with 4-H programs is needed to enjoy seeing 4-H projects.

Fairgoers come for all sorts of reasons, he said. Former 4-H members usually check in to see what’s new, while others come with a mission such as buying baked goods on sale at the end of the day (Sept. 11) or eyeing geology exhibits in the hope of identifying an unusual rock they spotted while digging in the garden.

The entomology projects, with Kansas insects neatly displayed, are among the most popular exhibits in the building, but sometimes seeing a single project may be all that it takes to encourage others, he said.

Wiebers encourages visitors to allow plenty of time to see top projects from around the state, and noted that visiting the building can be a real plus for families who are considering 4-H youth development.

With more than 30 different projects available, seeing the projects can be helpful to children and families in choosing where they might like to start, said Wiebers, who suggested that “4-H can be a great activity for the whole family to get involved in together.”

For more information, plan to visit the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson Sept 11-20; stop in at a county or district Extension office, or go to www.Kansas4-H.org.