Couple has spent many years preparing youth for the fair

Cherry (middle) and Kevin (right) Buttles continue to assist any youth who have questions about their rabbits. The Buttles served many years as 4-H Rabbit Project Leader volunteers. – Submitted photo

Local Black Creek couple has been very involved with the 4-H and the Outagamie County Fair for decades.
Cherry and Kevin Buttles are known by many in the community because of the involvement they have both had with the rabbit project.
The Buttles involvement with rabbits began when Cherry said they were taking care of their neighbors’ rabbits while the neighbors were on vacation. She said when their neighbors got back from vacation they came over and as part of payment for doing all the chores the neighbors gave her oldest son a rabbit, cage, feeder and everything needed to get started with rabbits.
While they were taking care of the neighbors’ rabbits Cherry said her son also “made friends” with one of the other rabbits and asked to buy that rabbit from the neighbor. Then Cherry said their youngest son thought the rabbit project looked like a good idea so he got a doe to breed. She said they have kept with just Californian and Rex breeds for their rabbits.
There were some learning experiences when it came to showing rabbits.
“The very first time we showed at the state show Luke [Buttles’ oldest son] took three rabbits and all three rabbits got disqualified,” Cherry said. “They were all underweight and one had mismatched toenails.”
At this point Cherry said they asked their son if he wanted to continue to show and when he did they made the decision to get good stock and he bought his first pedigreed rabbit.
Cherry and Kevin were involved with 4-H in many aspects and tried to help youth with their various projects and incorporated their personal experience with rabbits when they taught youth about the rabbit project.
Kevin was a 4-H project leader volunteer for 25 years where he was a leader for dairy and rabbits. Cherry was a 4-H project leader volunteer for 20 years and was a leader for Cloverbuds and rabbits.
As a 4-H Rabbit Project Leader, Cherry said they put on a Project Learning Day at Fox Valley Technical College every year in February. During these Project Learning Days, Cherry said they shared how to handle the rabbits, what the rabbit project entailed, information about different breeds of rabbits, what type of food is good for the rabbits and why.
“Sometimes we would actually have a time when they would build a rabbit cage so they would learn how to do that,” Cherry said. “We would go over diseases, how to either prevent or how to cure diseases rabbits might get.”
Kevin said they also offered a unique learning opportunity for the youth to learn.
“One of the unique things we did in rabbit clinic was palpation, so checking to see if a rabbit is pregnant,” Kevin said. “Once a rabbit is pregnant most breeds will have babies in 30 days, but in the 10-14 day range you can actually palpate the rabbit to determine if she did become pregnant and if she didn’t you can rebreed her and save about two weeks of time so you didn’t have to wait 30 days to see if she would have babies. That was one of the more unique learning activities because most people don’t even realize you can palpate a rabbit.”
Cherry said they also tried to teach youth about what to look for when buying a rabbit. She said they had seen youth buy rabbits that ended up not being what they thought they were. She said sometimes they thought they bought a buck only to find out later it was a doe. So she said they recommended youth study the “Standard of Perfection” to learn about the breeds of rabbits and what to look for. She also said youth should take someone they trust with them to purchase a new rabbit.
“We want them [youth] to have a nice purebred rabbit to show at the fair instead of being disappointed because it isn’t what they thought it was,” Cherry said. “We hope nowadays people know exactly what their breed should look like and ask someone they trust to go look at the rabbit. If the seller doesn’t want them to have someone look at rabbit I suggest not buying rabbit.”
While youth work on their rabbit projects during the year, the fair allows the youth a place to exhibit their rabbits.
“The fair is the vehicle for the 4-H members to show their projects,” Kevin said.
The judges at the fair will look at each rabbit that is entered in the fair.
“They take their rabbit up to judging table, then the judge will take that rabbit and look it all over checking for disqualifications, checking for breed characteristics, checking the type, checking the fur and the flesh condition of the rabbit,” Cherry said.
Kevin said the judges also do health checks on the rabbits looking at the nose for discharge and looking in the ears for ear mites.
One of the changes Kevin said he pushed for was for the small animal auction to be held in the same building and around the same time as the large animal auction. He said the small animal auction used to be in a different building and at a different time than the large animal auction. Now the small animal auction is held right before the large animal auction and both auctions are held in the same building.
“The buyers would be there or coming in for large animal auction,” Kevin said. “That’s definitely an important change with the small animal projects chickens, rabbits, turkeys and ducks.”
Over the years, Kevin said the rabbit exhibit at the fair has changed as new rabbits were added to the show and less popular rabbits were taken out. Also, he said the smaller breeds of rabbits have become more popular as they don’t require as much space to raise them.
As a 4-H dairy project leader, Kevin said he did Project Learning Days teaching youth about dairy. During his years working with the dairy project he has seen changes with the dairy being shown at the fair.
“The numbers are less than what they used to be,” Kevin said about the dairy being shown at the fair. “On the other hand over the years there are more project animals or managerial animals so there are folks that don’t live on a farm or their family doesn’t own a farm, they are still able to show animals that they get from a neighbor or a family member. There is a lot more of that than there used to be which is great. It gives opportunities for more young people to be exposed to what is involved with taking care of animals.”
Helping youth prepare their projects for the fair can be very rewarding.
“My biggest reward or exciting experience is to see how excited the youth get with their projects,” Cherry said. “To see how well they have done with their projects, to see start to finish how they have taken their project and really expanded their project and taken it under their wing.”
Kevin has not only been involved in the fair with helping with 4-H projects but his involvement has grown. For the last eight years Kevin has been on the fair board and has served as vice president on the Outagamie County Fair Board for the last four years. Kevin said the fair board is responsible to put together the fair with entertainment, exhibits, games, rides and everything else that goes into making the fair a success.
“Putting that all [everything for the fair] together to be able to show this to the public and for the public to be able to come in and enjoy the fair,” Kevin said. “When we can do that and at the end of the fair be able to say we have accomplished our vision without any hang ups. That’s what I get excited about.”
This year the Outagamie County Fair is July 23-29 and more information can be found at https://www.outagamiecountyfair.com/