Minette Kofford shows off the ribbons she earned at this year’s Sedgwick County Fair. Kofford is a member of the Peck Ramblers 4-H Club.
Gluten-free entries shine for first-time Fair-goer
By Amy Houston

Minette Kofford inherited celiac disease from her mother, and although it comes with its share of challenges, the Haysville girl’s experience with a gluten-free diet served her well at the Sedgwick County Fair.

Minette, a member of the Peck Ramblers 4-H Club, entered the Fair competition for the first time. She won purple ribbons for her gluten-free chocolate cake and gluten-free Reese’s Pieces cookies.

“She knows how to cook, and it was amazing,” said her mother, Tammy Kofford. “I didn’t know what they’d think about us bringing something gluten free, but I thought, ‘Why would we bring something we can’t eat?’ She (the judge) was totally impressed.”

In fact, the judge asked 10-year-old Minette to present a demonstration for her FACS (family and consumer science) class in Hesston. Minette advanced to the state fair in multiple categories – not bad for her first outing at the Cheney event.

“It was nice,” she said. “I liked art.”

Minette, a home-school student, takes art classes at CityArts in Wichita. In addition to her purple ribbons in cooking, she received a purple ribbon for a clay pot that she made and painted; blue ribbons for a painting, clay mask and seashell art arrangement; and blue ribbons for educational exhibits.

Finally, Minette excelled in rabbit showmanship. She will show her Polish rabbits at the state fair in September.

“One of her rabbits won best of show, and he got a blue. And then the other one won best of breed, and he got a blue. And she got a blue in showmanship. I told her she may not do that well every year,” Tammy said with a laugh.

The family had rabbits as pets, but since she was a 4-H student who wanted show-worthy rabbits, Minette was part of the Hare Raiser Project at the Sedgwick County Extension Office. She learned how to care for the rabbits and how to show them.

“It was pretty easy,” she said of speaking to the judges. “It was kind of hard to remember all the stuff that you’re supposed to do for showmanship.”

The process provided an education for Minette’s family as well.

“We’ve learned a lot,” Tammy said. “I had no idea. I thought a rabbit was a rabbit.”

Tammy was a 4-H member who entered horses, so she was pleased that her daughter also enjoyed the experience. She wanted Minette to learn leadership skills, how to give a presentation, how to run a formal meeting and the importance of community service.

“It’s good for them to do community service,” Tammy said. “I like that, and I like that she’s learning to speak in front of groups. Like when you show your rabbit, you have to speak in front of a stranger and tell them all about your rabbit and explain all these things about your rabbit. It’s good for her to get up in front of groups and do talks.”

Minette will take her gluten-free chocolate cake and her rabbits to the state fair. She gives the animals food and water each day, although her mother said she might get tired of taking them frozen water bottles in the summer heat.

Minette didn’t seem to mind this week. She already had plans to show rabbits in 2015.

“I think I’ll do that again next year,” she said.