Ridgefield twins are mirror images of fair success

Fourth-generation 4-Hers are fixtures atop lists of contest winners

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian arts & features reporter



If you go

What: Clark County Fair.

Hours today: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Where: 17402 N.E. Delfel Road.

Admission: Adults, $10; seniors 62 and older, $8; kids 7-12, $7 ($5 today, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.); kids 6 and younger, free; parking, $6; C-Tran shuttle, $2 per person round trip from area Park & Ride lots; children 6 and younger ride free. $1 discount on admission with a bus fare stub.

Carnival: Opens at noon; unlimited rides today, $25.

Sleep Country Amphitheater: The Avett Brothers, 8 p.m. Extra fee.

99.5 The Wolf Grandstands: Demolition Derby, 2 and 7 p.m.

Other highlights: Watermelon Eating Contest, noon; Jugglemania with Rhys Thomas, 2 p.m.

Pets: Not permitted, except for personal service animals or those on exhibition or in competition.

More information: Clark County Fair or call 360-397-6180.

Online: Download the mobile app for the Clark County Fair.

At last, a day off from the fair. Finally, time to go enjoy the fair!

For Heidi and Hailie Christenson, the Clark County Fair is a way of life. It's a joy and a responsibility. It's a year-round pursuit of many different efforts and projects that all culminate here.

So Thursday was a special day for the 17-year-old Ridgefield twins, who enjoyed their first and only vacation from an otherwise relentless schedule of showings, exhibitions, stations and contests.

Those contests have yielded their usual round of stellar results for the Christensons, who took honors in everything from training and showing cats and dogs and cavies, to sewing and baking, to drawing and painting. That's typical for the twins, whose names have been topping lists of fair contest winners for years.

"I think we just love what we do and we've been doing it for a long time," said Hailie as she toured the various exhibitions and displays where Christenson creations and critters were bearing ribbons. She and her sister have had excellent lifelong training for all this through family and through 4-H, which are almost the same thing.

Heidi and Hailie are fourth-generation 4-H club members, according to their mother, Shaun, whose grandfather started out in 4-H as a child. Shaun said 4-H, a youth development organization with an emphasis on hands-on experience and a history tied to American agriculture, helps children learn "a success paradigm" that's all about setting goals, mastering skills, reflecting on results and pressing on.

"As you make choices in life it is a great paradigm to follow," she said.

That same success-oriented attitude is a comfort when your efforts are less than 100 percent successful, she added -- as can happen at the fair.

"In this kind of arena. you work really hard, and if you don't attain your goal, it can be pretty emotional," she said. "I think 4-H helps you learn to handle those disappointments with a whole lot more grace. But it still is a formidable life skill to learn."

That skill -- emotional resilience -- came into play for the Christensons this week, as each girl excelled in an event the other had her heart set on. Heidi is the major dog lover -- "I live and

breathe dogs," she said -- but her sister advanced to a higher level of canine competition than she did. And Hailie is more of a cat person -- she likes their subtler, less predictable, occasionally "crazier" personalities, she said -- but Heidi is the one who went farthest in cat competition this year.

"It doesn't matter in the end," said Heidi. "We do this together all year-round and we do pretty well together. We like to help each other and there's no rivalry."

The girls have been home-schooled and worked with Battle Ground Public Schools' River HomeLink program; now both are in the Running Start program for high school students at Clark College. Both hope to attend Brigham Young University, but Heidi is aiming for a future in dance while Hailie dreams of wildlife conservation.

As you can see from their photo, the twins are technically "identical" but not precisely alike. Hailie said Heidi is more outgoing and naturally steps into leadership roles and attacks everything she does with enthusiasm; Hailie described herself as a little quieter, a little more serious -- and pretty frank about 4-H activities that don't speak to her, such as gardening and sewing, despite her best efforts.

Given those differences, both said, having a built-in best friend who's helpful and knowledgeable about your endeavors is a great thing. The only truly annoying thing about having an identical twin, they agreed, is the way people often mistake them for the same person.

So here's a key. Heidi wears glasses. Hailie prefers contact lenses. That's all the help you get here. And now it's time to turn them loose for a fun day at the fair. No contests. No responsibilities. What's the No. 1. thing each twin wants to do with her free time?

"Probably the Walk on the Wild Side," said Heidi. "And then the Dock Dogs."

"Darn," said Hailie, "that's just what I said!"

Scott Hewitt: 360-735-4525; scott.hewitt@columbian.com