"We do it all together," said Alice Bair. "We go to allthe meetings together. (We) share a common interest in 4-H."
"With Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, you're not working on (projects) as a family," she said.
"You're with a leader . . ." said her husband.
". . . as opposed to a parent," she finished. "The parent is a source of . . ."
". . . encouragement," Ashley interjected.
"And guidance," her mother added.
The week-long 4-H fair is spent as a family, as the Bairs enjoy the results of a year's worth of preparationand anticipation, said Ashley, who serves as president of the two 4-H clubs she's in.
"It's not like the mall," she said. "We all go to the events together.
"We're learning everything that we do together, as a group."
"Gosh," said a pensive Alice Bair, after absorbing her daughter's words.
"That is the strength of 4-H -- it keeps families together."
That home-based outlook means a lot to a club leader, said Kathryn M. Frock, head of the county's horticulture club.
"It's such a good cooperation with the parents," the 74-year-oldWestminster resident said. "They're a very dedicated family. They have strong family ties."
That is not always the case, said Frock, who has logged 58 years with 4-H.
"There are some (families) who, if the children want to belong to 4-H they can, but they're sort of ontheir own," she said. "It's sort of up to the leader to keep that spark alive."
"It does take a lot of parent commitment," Alice Bair said. "I feel really fortunate in that I've had the years that I've had to give the kids."
It also takes a lot of time, she said.
"But you set priorities," she said. "We do not do a lot other than 4-H and church because we do feel that it's a strong, positive program.
"It keeps them really busy during the summer."
"They're gonna bedoing something," she said. "We've always had the philosophy that it's just really important keeping kids busy doing good, positive things."
Gehrie Bair, who was not involved with 4-H as a kid, said he would have enjoyed a program such as 4-H to keep him occupied during his vacations from school.
"I played ball in the summer," he said. "And I was bored the rest of the summer."
With the number of 4-H projects the Bair children have, it is unlikely they will spend much of their summer break bored. All three have garden entries and will show a dairy goat.
Rocketry and the bicycle rodeo are Mac's favoritecompetitions. Last year, he won in the intermediate level, 24-inch bike category.
In addition, public speaking proved to be one of Mac's strong points.
He won at the county and regional levels and wasreserve champion at the state competition.
Despite his success, the 12-year-old said he'd rather play ball than give speeches.
"It's hard to do," he said. "It's OK, but it's not my favorite area."
Ross, who also will enter the rocketry competition and bicycle rodeo,said he enjoys working in his vegetable garden most.
Last year heentered his garden in the fair for the first time and won grand champion, he said.
Was he surprised at this success?
"Yeah," he said, his eyes wide.
Growing a nice garden takes hard work, at least 20 minutes each day, Ross said.
But, he admitted with a grin, "We do have time to watch TV and play Nintendo."
Ashley's area of concentration is horticulture. Last year, she was grand champion for her flower garden, won in the marketing division at the National Junior Horticulture Convention and received the commissioners' tray for excel
lence in horticulture.
"I like creating designs, making a scene with plants," she said. "I like blooms . . . color . . . getting something to grow."
Alice Bair's own success in 4-H contributed to Ashley's enthusiasm and her ultimate goal of participating in the national record book competition conducted each year in Chicago, the younger girl said.
"It sort of is an inspiration," Ashley said of her mother's achievement. "She went to Chicago."
Ashley's record book entry this year was strong -- it was named as one of the top three inthe state -- but it was not selected to go to the nationals.
Yet her attitude remained positive as she said she'd try again next year.
"It was my first year, so we weren't looking for Chicago," she said. "It's the biggest thing in 4-H."
One of the attractions of 4-His that it allows for a wide range of interests, Alice Bair said.
"There's hardly anything that doesn't relate in some way to 4-H," she said. "You can do what you want to."
And, she said, noting that her parents were also 4-H'ers, "It is a system of passing on information from one generation to another."