First-year 4-H member Ben Hudson sports his handmade pants at the Campbell County Fair Style Show Wednesday.
Since the 2020 Campbell County Fair (CCF) began on Saturday, the Hudson family has been bringing home blue ribbons, qualifying for the Wyoming State Fair and winning pretty much nonstop.
Father Brad Hudson said during an interview Wednesday that five of his eight children are currently competing in CCF events such as quilting, cooking, fabric and fashion, rope craft, leather craft, woodwork, robotics and civic duties.
Altogether, the five fair-goers submitted 98 projects this year in 29 different project areas, along with three Clover Bud projects that were submitted but not judged at the fair. Anticipating a busy schedule, Brad said that he’d taken the week off from work to prepare, which many at the event have said is a regular, yearly practice for a fair parent.
However, unlike many other 4-H families, the Hudsons did not find it necessary to camp at the fairgrounds this week. Rather, they’ve made the 40-mile drive home every night because they don’t have any animals entered this year.
“We try to only own animals that serve an exact purpose to us on the homestead,” he said. “We wouldn’t really buy something just to sell it.”
Brad explained that over the last 16 years, he and his wife Shannon have adapted their lifestyle around the needs of their children.
For example, Brad and Shannon discovered that their eldest son Lee was experiencing a variety of health issues stemming from his food allergies. They also found that several of the Hudson kids have allergies to dairy. In response, the couple bought dairy goats which they now milk twice daily to create cheese, butter and other dairy products at home.
Brad thinks 4-H and county fair instill a do-it-yourself attitude in all of his children while teaching them general life skills.
“They’re learning to build, cook, sew, and volunteer,” Brad said. “These are valuable skills and someday they’ll use them again.”
This year, the youngest Hudson to be judged at CCF was 9-year-old Ben who competed in seven different categories and ultimately qualified for the state with his quilt, pea plants and homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Ben said during an interview Tuesday that he was especially proud of how his cookie recipe wowed the judges, and said that even he couldn’t deny that “they were really good.”
After being judged at the Fabric and Fashion competition, Ben held up the pair of blue lounge pants that his mother helped him sew earlier this summer.
He admired the shiny first-place ribbon hanging from them and noted the importance of preparation when gearing up for fair.
“Our mom had us come here super early so we could get ready and practice our walks and all that,” he said.
Ben wasn’t the only kid in his family who needed a little help from their mom Shannon, who assisted with sewing four quilts and 11 clothing items for this year’s fair.
Shannon works from home, and according to her husband, she devotes most of her time to homeschooling and raising their eight children.
The Hudsons have never strayed from the homeschooling routine they built during Brad’s 20 years of service in the United States Air Force.
“At that point homeschooling was just easier than making them switch schools every time I got stationed somewhere else,” Brad said.
After his retirement from the Air Force, Brad said he and Shannon had become familiar and comfortable with their personalized approach to educating their children. Brad went on to explain that a passing grade at the Hudson academy is no less than 80% or a B.
If the expectation is not reached, Shannon revisits the topic one-on-one with the child before reassigning the failed material again for review.
Along with dedicating her time to perfectionism, Brad said that Shannon makes a regular effort to “normalize” the kids’ schooling experience despite obvious differences, such as not getting summers off.
“The homeschooling takes a lot, but the kids get everything they need from it,” Brad said. “Just today, they went on a little field trip to the museum in Moorcroft.”
Brad laughed to himself as he watched Lee entertain his younger sister with a balloon that was left over from the Fabric and Fashion Style Show. All around him, his older children played and talked with their younger siblings.
Brad thinks that his 20 years in the military contributed to the parenting style that he’s used over the years. As a Senior Non Commissioned Officer in the Air Force, Brad trained new members and said that throughout his teaching, he noticed it was easier to set an example for the men than to maintain control over them.
“In the Air Force, I was always trying to teach those guys how to take my job when I couldn’t do it anymore,” Brad said. “And I think it’s the same thing with the kids, I want them to know how to provide and take care of themselves when they need to.”
Adamant in teaching his children acceptance, Brad said that last year he and Shannon were forced to deal with circumstances that many parents couldn’t even imagine.
The youngest Hudson boy explained during an interview Tuesday,
“There was gonna be nine of us before, but now there’s only eight kids, again,”
Ben said as he looked from his tennis shoes to a light in the ceiling, and back to his shoes.
In October 2019, Shannon delivered their ninth child, stillborn.
She was about 20 weeks pregnant with their daughter, whom they’d named Cassie, when her uterus ruptured, ultimately causing her to get an emergency caesarean. Shannon was hospitalized due to loss of blood since her blood pressure crashed repeatedly.
Brad said that despite the traumatic experience, Shannon never shifted her focus from the eight children who’d also been expecting another sister. This claim was solidified throughout the week by the countless projects that Shannon helped her children to make.
The family has kept steadily busy since the loss, keeping up with their routine that includes 4-H activities, community service, crafting, learning and traveling together.
Thanks to their prepared lifestyle, the Hudsons are coping with that loss by winning, all week long.