Joanna and Jacob -- everyone calls them Jo and Jake -- don't focus on just one or two animals, like beef cattle or swine, for their 4-H projects. Instead, the siblings routinely enter a whole barn full of animals in many competitive classes at the fair, which ends Saturday at the fairgrounds, 21st and Harper streets.
Jo and Jake live with their parents, Dennis and Debbie Hetrick, on 20 acres of land about seven miles west of Lawrence.
There, they raise rabbits, goats, chickens, pigeons, ducks and llamas for their 4-H projects, which have met with a fair amount of success.
"A couple years ago I had the grand champion goat," said Jo, 18, who will be a freshman at Emporia State University this year. "And I've won the poultry showmanship in my age division (15-19) the last couple years."
"I've won a couple of trophies for goats and pigeons," added Jake, 12, who will be a seventh-grader this fall at Perry Middle School. "I've got some reserve champion and champion ribbons for rabbits, chickens and goats."
They're old hands at the fair, where Jo has entered 4-H projects for the last 12 years and Jake for six. Both have been members of Stull Busy Beavers 4-H Club since they were 7, and followed in the footsteps of older brother James, now 22, who lives in Lecompton.
The Hetricks have their hands full with their 4-H animal projects.
They have four rabbits, eight goats, nine ducks, two llamas, a cage full of homing pigeons and more chickens than they can track.
"We've done the rabbits and the chickens (in 4-H) the longest," Jo said.
Llamas are a new competitive class this year for the Douglas County Free Fair and the Hetricks will enter two -- Penny and Bandit.
"We went to the state fair last year, and Jake liked them," Jo said.
Of the animals they will show at the fair, only a few of them will go to market in the sale barn.
Jo and Jake plan to sell three goats: two Nubians and one La Mancha. The rest of their animals will return home with them after the judging is done.
Throughout the year, Jo and Jake work with their animals about two hours each day. They have to feed and water them, and keep their pens clean. The goats and llamas need frequent brushing, too.
"Sometimes we'll help each other if we're having trouble," Jo said.
To keep the animals cool in the summer heat, Jo and Jake use fans to circulate air in the barn.
The Mini Lop and Satin rabbits get individual cooling systems. Jo and Jake fill plastic soda containers with water and freeze them, then put them in the rabbit hutches, where they can rest up against them.
Jo likes working with the ducks the best.
"They're small, and they're easy to work with," she said. "The goats, you have to work with them a lot, and sometimes they don't really like it."
Jake enjoys the llamas.
"If you try to teach them something, they pick it up real fast," he said.
The only drawback to the llamas is that they spit -- and they've hit Jake once.
Are there any other animals they'd like to try raising?
"Maybe horses," Jo said.
Jake might like to try his hand with a different type of critter.
"Snakes. I like them in cages," he says.
-- Staff writer Jim Baker can be reached at 832-7173.