Growing up as a farm kid, our activities outside the confines of our farm north of Princeton were limited. Oh sure, we were taken into Princeton to occasionally visit the swimming pool or to accompany our adults on errands, but by and large, our world was the countryside and everything that went along with it. Of course times were much different then on those dusty gravel roads of long ago, but we were usually content with our life on the farm.
With that in mind, being a member of a 4-H Club back then was a big deal. With a monthly meeting clearly written on our family calendar, we looked forward to each one. After all, days and weeks would go by without any scheduled activities except the ones on the farm that focused on family and chores. A 4-H meeting meant we had the opportunity to visit another 4-H member’s home, have a meeting in which we all participated, enjoy homemade food made by that 4-Her’s mom, and then play games after the meeting, while the adults chatted among themselves.
Not sound too exciting? Oh but it was, and many times it was the highlight of our month.
We were members of two 4-H Clubs — a girls’ only club dubbed the Cloverleaf Homemakers and a boys’ and girls’ club named Evergreen 4-H Club. The meetings consisted of a variety of regular features — the pledge, the reading of the minutes from the meeting before, old business, new business, etc. Those items were then always followed by talks and demonstrations performed by members of the club, which varied greatly depending on which projects those members were working on. We learned a lot without even realize we were learning. It was just fun.
Even though the number of projects offered were limited back then, we spent many hours outside our 4-H meetings working on those projects. From attempting to stitch a straight line for our clothing projects ... to baking the perfect brownies ... to brushing our ponies and getting them to stand just so in anticipation of the showring ... to taking photos for our photography project ... to working on an arts and crafts piece ... to so much more — our days were filled with various activities in preparation for the ultimate — the Bureau County 4-H Fair.
When the fair finally arrived, we were just about giddy. After our leaders reviewed our projects and fair entries, we solemnly took our animals and other projects to the fair, hoping for blue ribbons yet knowing the judges would let us know if our attempts were worthy. Sometimes they were; sometimes they weren’t. More lessons learned in being gracious and knowing we could do better next time.
The fair was also a great time to reconnect with friends we had made at last year’s fair, and we spent every day, all day, at the fairgrounds surrounded by adults and other 4-H members who held the same values, goals and dreams. I don’t remember any of us ever being a problem. Respect was the rule of the day, and we gave it without anyone reminding us to do so.
This week is the annual Bureau County Fair. As you can imagine, 4-H has changed in many ways since I was a little kid many, many years ago. There are far more projects in which members can enroll; the judging process is different; the events at the fair differ greatly; etc. After all, things change with the times.
But there are some things that have remained consistent throughout the years, and those are the same things that make a 4-H Club so important to the youth of today. Members work hard. Adults volunteer their time for the benefit of these children; Fun is paramount to all of it. And respect is learned over and over again.
Hard to believe some things never change. Why not head on out to the Bureau County 4-H Fair today, Saturday, or Sunday and see for yourself. I think you’ll be really impressed with the young people you’ll see there.