The Times photo by Betsy ReasonNoblesville’s Gracie Kinnaman, a Harey Hoppers 4-H Club member, holds her rabbit as she works at her club’s booth in the Rabbit Barn at the Hamilton County 4-H Fair, which continues through Monday.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason

Noblesville’s Gracie Kinnaman, a Harey Hoppers 4-H Club member, holds her rabbit as she works at her club’s booth in the Rabbit Barn at the Hamilton County 4-H Fair, which continues through Monday.
Noblesville's Gracie Kinnaman removed her rabbit from his cage and sat him on a carpet remnant on top of a rectangular folding table in the Rabbit Barn at the Hamilton County 4-H Fair.

Wearing her light blue Harey Hoppers 4-H Club T-shirt, she couldn't help but have a big smile on her face. What made her so happy?

"Just getting to spend time with the rabbits and helping my club," said the 10-year-old Noblesville girl, a second-year 4-H'er.

Gracie talked to any passersby interested in hearing about rabbits, especially about her rabbit, Buddy, a Mini Rex breed with an incredibly soft black coat.

The Hazel Dell Elementary fifth-grader checked in her rabbit on Wednesday, and she said it wasn't easy leaving him at the Fairgrounds. "I didn't cry, but I was just really sad that he had to stay here. And I didn't know how he was going to act, so I was kind of worried."

Thursday morning, she returned, and her rabbit was doing just fine.

The daughter of Mike and Renita Kinnaman, she said, "It's kind of a lot of work but not too much work" to raise and care for a rabbit. She said, "Rabbits don't need too much exercise. If you give them 15 minutes a day of exercise, then they're fine."

So what's exercise for a rabbit? Gracie said she just lets out her rabbit to run around on the family's carpet. Thankfully, her rabbit is potty- and crate-trained. "We just clean up after him a lot, so he doesn't stink in the house."

So does that mean that rabbits get a regular bath? "You're not really supposed to give rabbits a bath, but you can wipe them down with a wet-wipe, to get their fur nice." Plus, she said, "You have to trim their nails twice a month, because their nails get really long." She trimmed his nails just before the 4-H Fair. "What about their ears? "You really don't have to clean their ears," she said, smiling.

Gracie feeds Buddy "normal rabbit food," "some oats," and "black-oil sunflower seeds; that's good for their rabbit coat." To keep her rabbit cool, she freezes water bottles to take to the 4-H Fair to hang in his cage."

At the Fair, she gets a lot of questions from fairgoers, but her most common inquiry is "Do you have to train him to be this calm?" She smiled as Buddy sat contently on the carpet remnant on the table.

So what are her duties in the Rabbit Barn? "Just let people pet him," she said of her 3-pound, 10-ounce, 5-month-old bunny that she cuddled in her arms.

To prepare her rabbit for the 4-H Fair, she said, "We came here early, we got him all cleaned up to make sure that he looked nice, and we waited until it was the Mini Rex breed. Once it was, we took him up there and put him in this little white box, and the judge looked him over." Her rabbit earned a blue honor ribbon, and also Best Opposite Sex of Variety.

Besides talking a lot about her animal, she also made sure that visitors to the Rabbit Barn were aware of Harey Hoppers' annual fundraiser.

"We're selling suckers for our club so we can raise money so we can help around the 4-H (Fairgrounds) area," said Gracie, whose club has helped to purchase stands for the 4-H Photography exhibit in the Fairgrounds' O.V. Winks Building.

The coolest thing about the hard-candied suckers is that the Harey Hoppers 4-H'ers hand made every one of them. They offered about a dozen flavors, pink lemonade, peach, pina colada, pineapple, grape, root beer, apple, cinnamon, watermelon, strawberry kiwi, strawberry and cotton candy.

Gracie said their recipe combined corn syrup, sugar, flavoring, food coloring and water, then they boiled and poured the mixture into rabbit molds to set up. Gracie said it took about an hour to make two batches, but overall, her club made about 1,000 suckers to sell at the fair. They usually sell all of them, bringing in about $500 at a price of 50 cents a sucker.

At the 4-H Fair, Harey Hopper 4-H Club volunteers also do farm duty in the Rabbit Barn. They put old hay into wheelbarrows to dump, fill animal water bottles and sweep the barn floor.

Gracie's mom, Renita Kinnaman, said, "It teaches them so much about responsiblity and how to be a team player and how to take care of things and when you sign up to volunteer, how important it is to give back to the group."

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