Perfectly prepared: Food, small projects part of run up to Canfield Fair

(left) Grace Maltonic, 8, of New Springfield, Ohio, carefully arranges her “Perfectly Princess Picnic” on July 15 during the 4-H small project judging at the Canfield Fairgrounds. (right) Levi Smith, 18, of Berlin Center, Ohio, brought one of 18 nutrition projects to 4-H small judging July 15 at the Canfield Fairgrounds. Smith entered a loaf of yeast bread. 4-H’ers entered 194 project.

In every county, there’s more to 4-H than what you see at the fair

CANFIELD, Ohio — Nothing breaks Grace Maltonic’s focus.

Not the din of dozens of conversations clattering off the walls of the Hay and Grain building at the Canfield Fairgrounds. Not the intrusion of a reporter with a camera, busily snapping shots. Not the concerned hovering of a food judge.

No, the 8-year-old from New Springfield, Ohio, wearing a shiny, long blue dress with puffed sleeves and plastic latex gloves, is not deterred. Her “Perfectly Princess Picnic” — pasta salad, apple slices and creamy peanut butter dip, butterscotch brownies and lemonade drink with fresh raspberry garnish — needs to be arranged just so.

There. All done. Grace steps back. Her 4-H nutrition project is ready.

Judging day

She turns her attention to the judge, Evelyn Hall of Stow, Ohio, and begins calmly fielding questions. What are four safety rules to follow in the kitchen? What is the difference between liquid and dry measuring cups?

Hall samples Grace’s pasta salad — the item chosen to be judged. Then, Grace methodically packs up her picnic and moves to the last station: a skillathon on the national nutritional guide, MyPlate.

Not just for girls

Carol Sankovic, of Canfield, Ohio, has judged cooking projects for around 20 years. In that time, she’s seen a lot of changes. Biggest one? “More guys cooking,” she said. “We didn’t have as many guys maybe 10 years ago.”

It’s all ages too.

“I think it’s great,” she added. “It’s not just a girl thing.”

Boys too

Her observation seems to follow the 4-H’ers trickling in throughout the morning. Most are male participants. Levi Smith, 18, of Berlin Center, sets up at Sankovic’s table. He unwraps a crusty loaf of yeast bread.

“I usually do desserts, because I like eating desserts,” Smith laughed.

Luke Kemmer
Luke Kemmer discusses his banana bread entry with 4-H nutrition judge Carol Sankovic.

Sankovic samples the bread. The flavor is good, it slices well, but it’s a little dry. She gives Smith some tips to improve.

Following him is Luke Kemmer, 10, of Canfield, Ohio. His red plaid shirt is tucked tightly into his pleated black dress pants, which are tucked into his cowboy boots. He has banana bread, dusted with powdered sugar and garnished with a strawberry. Sankovic takes a bite and nods. It’s good.

Times are changing

The nutrition tables placed along the wall to the side of other stations — like writing, quilting, woodworking, sport shooting — are new. Just a few years ago, cooking projects got a separate day. Not this year. The number of participants decreased enough that it made more sense to include the category with the other non-livestock projects, according to Janice Hanna, Mahoning County Extension educator.

Overall, 194 nonlivestock projects were judged July 15. Of those, only 18 were nutrition. Sewing has also seen a drop in participation over the years, with 48 projects this year. (The sewing projects are judged on a separate day.) Hanna isn’t worried though.

“Fewer people are cooking and sewing these days at home,” she said.

Over the years, participation in various projects fluctuates. Most popular right now? Scrapbooking. That flexibility and variety in projects is what makes 4-H successful and remain popular, Hanna said. “It does kind of reflect changes in society.”

(Reporter Rebecca Miller can be reached at 800-837-3419, ext. 231 or at


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Farm and Dairy Editor-in-Chief Rebecca Miller was tapped to lead the newsroom in 2019. A veteran journalist, dog wrangler and traveler, she lives on a 220-acre, 325-ewe commercial sheep farm in Lisbon, Ohio, which she runs in partnership with her mother. She can be reached at 330-817-6179 or


  1. Wow! That pic of the “perfect Princess,” little Miss Grace Maltonic, *, says it all!

    What a beautiful child. Hard at work doing what she loves.

    Renews my faith in America.

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