Keith and Carol Earles have been active fair volunteers and supporters of 4-H youth in Tama County. Keith’s work as a volunteer, club leader, superintendent, and fair board member spanned more than 20 years. Carol worked by his side to support his efforts at the local and county level. The Earles raised three daughters who were all actively involved in 4-H at the local, county, and state levels.
Keith’s involvement in 4-H began as a youth showing dairy cattle, poultry, rabbits, and garden exhibits. This experience was so important to him, he encouraged their daughters to participate and provided support needed to get started in a wide variety of projects. He encouraged their interests in non-traditional projects for women, teaching them woodworking, livestock management, and the use of power tools.
Volunteering to help at club meetings was a natural for Keith. He served as leader for the Buckingham Boosters 4-H Club and later served as sheep superintendent, assistant goat superintendent, and the Tama County Fair Board where he served as treasurer for two years. As club leader, Keith’s motto was “work until all are finished”. At fair clean-up days, he encouraged club members to help each other until all assigned tasks were completed. As sheep superintendent, Keith tried to develop a sense of barn camaraderie, asking his daughters to help clean other members’ pens before their own, while he ran a skid loader to help everyone load out at the end of fair. Other 4-H’ers responded and it became an annual tradition for all to work together on the last day.
Attending 4-H meetings started as a father/daughter activity but soon Keith’s wife, Carol, saw the valuable skills their daughters learned and became involved herself. She helped support Keith’s work as a club leader and fair board member. She volunteered at the ribbon table on non-livestock judging day for many years. After chaperoning their daughter at many events during her reign as Iowa State Fair Queen, Carol brought new ideas back to Tama County for the queen contest. To increase the positive experience for young women, a day of learning about public speaking, etiquette, and dressing for success was added. Eventually the crowning ceremony became one of the widest attended events at fair.
Together, the Earles were part of a small group of fair leaders who worked to build 4-H membership by increasing fair visibility and attendance and seeking more countywide support. That committees’ Sponsorship Program raised funds to replace three barns, the arena sound system, purchased a portable sound system, and made other needed repairs. As part of that effort Carol created fair posters for distribution, spoke with media, and submitted many newspaper articles while Keith introduced the first Skid Loader Rodeo and Outdoor Movie Night. A special project of theirs was the Bucket of Junk contest, an on-going activity. Others have enjoyed creating and purchasing these lawn ornaments that have been auctioned as the sustaining funding source for local 4-H scholarships.
The Earles are very much a 4-H family as Keith and Carol are looking forward to supporting and teaching their grandchildren as they become 4-H members.