Six years ago, the Mike and JoDee Altmann family of rural Redwood Falls joined the Redwood County 4-H program.

“I was in 4-H growing up, and I wanted my kids to have the same opportunity,” said JoDee.

Today all four of the Altmann progeny, including Ashtyn, Austin, Alexis and Addyson, are members of the Valley Blazers 4-H Club, and they are in the midst of a very busy time of the year.

As of this week, the Altmanns will call the Redwood County Fair their home away from home, as they all participate in the 4-H programs being offered.

Tuesday, July 10 is a big day for the Altmanns, as all of their general projects will be judged. 

Ashtyn, the eldest of the Altmann clan, is bringing an entry in the photography project. Ashtyn said taking pictures is something she enjoys, adding she takes lots of them.

Alexis is participating in a new program being offered this year called zoonotics, which provides youth a chance to learn more about animal diseases, especially those that can be transferred from animals to humans.

That day, added JoDee, each of the older Altmanns will also be spending time volunteering in various capacities to help fellow 4-Hers as they bring in their projects.

While the Altmanns will spend time on general projects, their real involvement is in livestock.

They will be bringing in two pigs, nine sheep and seven pens of rabbits.

The pigs are a first-year project for them.

“We thought it would be fun to try something new,” said Austin.

Ashtyn, Austin and Alexis will also show their Suffolk-Hampshire cross sheep at the fair.

However, the family’s biggest event is the rabbit show.

One year ago, the rabbit show was moved to Wednesday night, and it is being held that night again this year starting at 6 p.m. The Mini Rex breed has been the standard for the Altmanns over the years. It is the project they have been involved with in 4-H from the beginning.

“We got our first rabbit in 2012,” said JoDee.

Since then their rabbit barn has seen an increase in numbers, although a bit of a tragedy last year meant having to start over with all new rabbits, with the exception of one that survived.

“The dog got in the rabbit barn,” said JoDee.

Being they had to start over, the Altmanns also added some Holland Lops this year.

What makes rabbits different from some of the other species is that rabbits may be shown more than one year. There are junior and senior divisions in each rabbit breed, with the juniors being up to six months in age and the seniors everything older than six months, explained Ashtyn.

Apparently, Alexis has become the expert in the family in determining whether a rabbit is a buck or a doe. All four of them are involved in getting the rabbits ready for the fair, and they know what is most important from getting the nails the right length to ensuring they are not overweight.

The Altmanns also serve as the superintendents in the rabbit barn, and so when the general project judging is over Tuesday night, they will also spend time getting the rabbit barn ready for the animals who will be entered by youth from all over Redwood County.

With the rabbit show Wednesday night (July 11), the swine show Thursday, July 12 (6 p.m.) and the sheep show Friday, July 13 (6:30 p.m.), the Altmanns will be extremely busy.

They will also be at the fair early each morning doing chores for the livestock they bring. One might also see one or more of the Altmanns at the Clover Cafe volunteering their time, and they will also be participating in the livestock auction Saturday starting at 10 a.m.

The four agreed they think Ashtyn is the most competitive, but Austin appears to be the most determined to make it to the state fair. They have been able to show animals at the state fair each year since they became eligible.

In addition to showing animals, Addyson said she likes the rides, especially the Zipper.

Alexis said one of her favorite parts of the county fair is seeing how each livestock group seems to be like a family.

The Altmanns are looking forward to seeing their 4-H friends from across the county.

They are looking forward to being at the fair and all of the things they are going to experience as part of the highlight of the 4-H year.

Other 4-H events taking place at the Redwood County Fair include:

• The horse show Thursday at 9 a.m.

• The poultry show Thursday at 10 a.m.

• The goat show Thursday at 3 p.m.

• The beef show Friday at 9 a.m.

• The dairy show Friday at 11:30 a.m.

• The premier showman contest Saturday at noon

• The pancake breakfast fundraiser Sunday from 8 a.m. until 12 p.m.

• The fashion revue Sunday at 1 p.m.

The public is encouraged to attend any or all of the shows to help encourage area youth, like the Altmanns, as they exhibit their projects.