Local 4-H family enjoys competing at the fair

Family represents Mifflin County in Grange Fair events

CENTRE HALL–Devin and Rebecca Decker, with children Sylvia and Barry, compete in timed, horsemanship and showmanship events with the Mifflin County Sunset Riders throughout the region. One of their favorite competitions is at the Centre County Grange Fair, held this year from August 17 to 25.

“It’s a family event,” Devin said. “The fair is like a big family reunion. We have family come from York, Parksburg, Chambersburg, Lancaster, Cochranville, Montrose (and) Baltimore. They all camp at the fair, as well as us. There are many family traditions, like my aunts bringing cookies and a family meal one evening of the fair.”

Each year, after moving into the five-generation family tent, the four Deckers enter their various horses into show competitions such as Costume Class and Halter, maneuvers such as English Over Fences and Western Pleasure, as well as timed competitions such as Box Keyhole, Poles and Cutback. Sylvia likes the timed events the most.

“It’s fast and it’s fun,” Sylvia said, riding CJ–a quarter horse bread from Penn State University.

Barry said he likes working with the horses in preparation for maneuvers.

“I like training the horses how to do patterns, then doing it,” Barry said, riding Sue, another quarter horse bread from PSU.

Devin, who competed with Hanker’n for More, appreciates the camaraderie between the competitors. Rebecca enjoys the long-term benefits for the kids.

“It teaches them (a strong) work ethic,” Rebecca said.

This year, Rebecca placed first in Grooming and Showmanship, a competition judged on how the horse is prepared to look its best and how well the handler presents the horse, first in Halter, which is judged on the horse’s build, and fifth in English Over Fences, a jumping competition. Devin placed first in the Western Pleasure and second in the Western Horsemanship riding competitions, second in Halter, third in Grooming and Showmanship and third in Costume Class, in which he dressed up himself and his horse in a chuck wagon get-up. Devin also competed in the senior level of Barrels and Poles, both timed competitions, placing second and sixth respectively.

Barry placed first in Western Pleasure, Western Horsemanship, and junior-level Box Keyhole, third in junior Barrels, and sixth in Halter. Barry also dressed up as a patriot riding a real US Calvary Saddle, taking fifth place in Costume Class. Sylvia placed first in junior Barrels and junior Cutback, another timed event. She placed second in junior Box Keyhole, second in English Over Fences and Hunter Hack–judged on how well the horse moves on flat, no-jumps English attire–and took fifth place in Costume Class, dressing up as the General Lee from the Dukes of Hazard.

“The best thing about the fair competition is that there are no year end points to worry about,” Devin said. “This show is not a qualifying show for any other larger or end of year show. Its a fun show with no pressure to have to do well. As a family, we get to compete against each other in many classes for family bragging rights for the year. We just have fun. Many of the same competitors return each year and we have a great time cheering each other on. Its a very friendly, relaxed show.”

Outside of the horse arena, Devin said the family just loves the fair.

“The biggest highlight is sleeping in the tent,” Devin said. “My mother, brother’s family and my family take turns staying in the family tent.”

Each member of the Decker family also looks forward to eating from their favorite fair food stands.

“Sylvia eats soft pretzels from Lauver’s Pretzel Stand, Rebecca likes ice cream sundaes from Sunset Ice Cream, Barry likes meatball subs from his favorite stand, (and I like) orange aide drinks from the Midway,” Devin said.

In addition to the fair, the Deckers have competed and shown at Ag Progress Days and Hilltop Riding Club. Though the Deckers live in Penns Valley and home-school, they all got involved with Mifflin County 4H because Rebecca is originally from Mifflin County and used to be a local 4H leader.