A little bit about a lot of things:

• Hectic time of the year around our communities and our offices, with so much happening as the school year draws to a close.....which makes the opportunity to spend some time on the fairgrounds a nice break from the mayhem!

The Merced County Spring Fair is always a big event for Gustine FFA and Westside 4-H Club members, and this year was no different.

Not sure how everybody fared on the 4-H side at this point, but Gustine FFA cleaned up in the livestock division once again, earning a number of high honors!

Regardless of whether somebody brings home grand champion honors or finishes in the lower echelons of their livestock class, the county fair is a remarkable experience for our FFA and 4-H members.

The atmosphere around the livestock barns is largely unchanged from that which I recall as a 4-H member showing beef cattle. I’m sure the mornings start early, just as ours did. Riding with my dad over to the fairgrounds as dawn was breaking every morning was part of our fair routine. There were other well-established routines as well.....preparing the animals for the ring on show and sale days, hanging around the barn when we had “alley duty,” keeping the walkways neatly groomed.

And, of course, with every fair there is just a certain amount of time spent waiting for your turn in the ring.

I enjoy the atmosphere.....these are good kids doing good things, and making memories that will last a lifetime. Many life skills are also instilled on the fairgrounds.....responsibility, work ethic, cooperation, fairness, dealing with challenges, handling success and disappointment alike with grace.....those are all things that serve us well through the years.

I have only one minor complaint about county fairs, and it is entirely self-serving.

I love that FFA members wear blue jackets with their chapter name on the back, because it is so easy to pick out who we need to photograph in the show ring.

But 4-H members showing in their whites can be an entirely different story.....some I recognize as local members, but certainly not all. Fortunately, 4-H parents and leaders are wonderful about helping me sort out who’s who.....I always appreciate it!

I would loved to have had more time to spend at the fair, and better yet to have been able to get back for a second day, but our pre-mass mailer week schedule didn’t allow that to happen.

Still, a few hours on the fairgrounds are always time well-spent and good medicine in the heart of one of our busiest weeks of the year.

• Yes, it is mass-mailer week.....one of the two times a year we publish an expanded edition which goes to all households from Crows Landing to Santa Nella.

I particularly enjoy the variety of human interest articles which are featured....we have some wonderful people doing remarkable things in our communities, and sharing their stories is always a pleasure, as it is throughout the year. We hope you enjoy!

• Start talking about GUSTO and TOSCA to somebody who doesn’t hail from the West Side, and you’ll probably get a blank look....but those acronyms carry plenty of weight around Newman and Gustine.

For those new to our communities, the letters represent the Gustine Unlimited Scholarship Trust Organization and The Orestimba Scholarship Community Association.....two grass-roots scholarship groups which each year help young adults from our communities pursue their college dreams.

Each is made possible by the support of generous, caring community benefactors.

Each started with humble beginnings more than two decades ago and has since grown to become, well, nothing short of amazing!

GUSTO presented more than $50,000 in scholarships to 70-plus recipients in a wonderful awards program Monday evening.

TOSCA will hold its annual awards program next Wednesday, and will present a record $171,300 to 128 recipients (another record).

With this year’s scholarships, the two organizations will have bestowed somewhere in the ballpark of $2.8 million during their existence.....and that number will likely top $3 million a year from now.

That is a mind-boggling number for a couple of small West Side communities!

We have an incredible number of Orestimba and Gustine graduates who go on to do great things in the world, and the scholarships help pave the way for their successes.

Ironically, many recipients may not realize until they get out into the world just how blessed they are to have the assistance of the local scholarship programs.....they’re grown up with GUSTO and TOSCA just being part of their communities.

But not every young adult aspiring to a higher education has such support from their community.....certainly not to the degree made possible by the good people of Gustine and Newman.

Dean Harris the Managing Editor of the West Side Index and Gustine Press-Standard. He can be reached at dharris@mattosnews.com or by calling (209) 243-8104.