Eighteen-year-old Kasie Elder has been participating in 4-H activities with the Walnut Wonder Workers since she was 7 years old. She liked the food, clothing and leadership events, but particularly enjoyed showing animals.

Eighteen-year-old Kasie Elder has been participating in 4-H activities with the Walnut Wonder Workers since she was 7 years old. She liked the food, clothing and leadership events, but particularly enjoyed showing animals.

“It makes me feel good about myself,” she said. “I like helping the younger kids, too. It’s just fun.”

On Monday afternoon, she participated in the 4-H foods judging contest at Girard High School to open up activities for the 2012 Crawford County Fair, one of the last 4-H events she will compete in before going off to college at Pittsburg State University in August. For the first time this year, contestants were allowed to make any dish they wanted and were judged in six categories: perishable, nonperishable, educational display, food preservation (i.e., canning), recipe collection and gift baskets.

Elder said her babysitter taught her to cook.

“She helped me learn, and I’ve wanted to cook ever since,” Elder said with a smile.

Elder entered a creamy chicken and rice casserole, blueberry streusel cobbler, chocolate and pretzel cheesecake with M&Ms, and pretzel peanut butter truffles.

“Half of the recipes I found on Pinterest,” she said.

Last year, 78 members entered the foods judging contest, and judges expected about the same number of contestants this year. The event is held early to give the members more time to compete showing animals, said Anna Mae Brown, Wildcat Extension District agent for Family and Consumer Sciences. The winners of Monday’s contest will have their pictures and ribbons displayed at the Fair.

“The judges talk to them about how they prepared their dishes, and talk about nutritional value,” Brown said. “This year, they have perishable and nonperishable foods so they don’t just have to do baked items. The idea is for 4-Hers to learn about all aspects of foods. They also learn about meal planning and how it fits in with making a balanced meal.”

Cathy Thorsell has been a foods judge in Crawford County since she retired here to be near family in about 2005. She judges food preservation, gift baskets and nutritional displays. The gift baskets are some of the more creative things she said she sees.

“You make them more personal,” she said. “Say it’s Fathers’ Day and your dad likes to fish. You fill it with a bunch of snacks he’d like to eat while he’s out there. They get hands-on experience and get to share with the judges what they learned in the process.”

Cailie Logue, 13, also competes with the Walnut Wonder Workers. For Monday’s event, she prepared salsa with tomatoes from her garden, an ambrosia fruit salad, chocolate zucchini cake and chocolate and banana muffins.

“They had vegetables from my garden in them, and I like chocolate, so there you go,” she said, grinning.

Logue said entering the foods competition was a no-brainer.

“I just get to try so many new things, and I enjoy cooking,” she said.