By AMY HOUSLEY
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
BAZETTA -- Rachel Miller is so dedicated to her horses and 4-H that she almost missed receiving an award for that dedication.
Rachel was honored Tuesday during the Trumbull County Fair's opening ceremonies with the "Spirit Award."
Rachel, 13, is the daughter of Art and Debbie Miller of Champion.
Opening ceremonies went off despite the threat of rain, which soon turned to reality by the bucketloads.
Flags were carried by a color guard composed of veterans. Tuesday was Veterans/Safety Forces Day, so police officers and firefighters were on hand to be thanked for their service.
Judge Evelyn Stratton of the Ohio Supreme Court cut a red, white and blue ribbon, declaring the fair to be officially open.
When the ceremony began, Rachel was in the barn helping a first-year 4-H'er, and she didn't realize that she was receiving the award.
Rachel's spirit had been recognized within her 4-H club, but she was surprised at the recognition at the county level. The award, her father said, goes to someone who "epitomizes the 4-H spirit."
Rachel is in her fifth year with 4-H, and her reasons for beginning are not the average story.
She started riding horses as therapy for her legs, which were twisted inward because of a disorder that leads to a breakdown of the connective tissue. This made it difficult for her to participate in other activities. It was suggested that she ride horses, which could help to naturally straighten her legs.
In October, Rachel had corrective surgery in which both of her legs were broken, then straightened.
She said the surgery didn't hurt as much as she thought it would, but "the thing that hurt the most was sitting all the time."
Before the surgery, she was limited in horse riding events because of her legs. "Now she can ride like a normal girl," her mother said, but added that Rachel's leg muscles needed to get stronger before she could join the canter class.
In spite of the medical problems, Rachel has always remained active with her horses. "She lives in the barn," her father said.
Harness racing was Sunday and Monday, but Tuesday was the first day for most fair events. Rides opened and judging for fair entries began.
Despite the rain, many people milled about. Some of the 4-H'ers took advantage of the rain for a "mud soccer" game in the ring where the horses usually show. It quickly became apparent that this was more of a mud wrestling match, but it was definitely a way to make the most of the rainy fair day.
The fair continues through Sunday.