Fairs snapshot of 4-H opportunityYouth involved in Douglas County 4-H can set their own path. They can become rabbit experts, dance with dogs, start a sewing business or travel the world.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Youth involved in Douglas County 4-H can set their own path. They can become rabbit experts, dance with dogs, start a sewing business or travel the world.
“You get out of it what you put into it,” said Sonya Blair, one of the leaders of the Lake Nebagamon-based Horses R Us club, and there are “more opportunities there than people realize.”
Through 4-H, her 19-year-old son Robby traveled to Australia for a month, and their family hosted an Argentina student named Santiago, this summer.
Nicole Greely, 14, has shown poultry at the state and local levels through the Tigers Pride 4-H Club. This summer, she is sharing her passion for poultry with a Japanese girl, Arisa. The 4-H exchange student has spent time working with the family’s 13 birds in Hawthorne and bonding with Nicole. They are, said her mother Cindy, “two peas in a pod.” Next week Arisa, who hails from a crowded Tokyo suburb, will show a few chickens at the Head of the Lakes Fair before taking in a Twins game and jetting home.
For Eliana Lammi, being part of the Knowledge Seekers 4-H club has led to a lesson in entrepreneurship. The sewing enthusiast is getting ready to bring her projects to the fair — a quilt, a jeans purse, a rag pillow and a stylish knitted scarf.
“It’s really cool,” said Eliana, 11. When she wears the flouncy scarf, people ask where she bought it. A number of people have asked Eliana to make them one. She has already sold two scarves and is working on four more.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said.
Fellow Knowledge Seeker Chloe Thomas has her own herd of Flemish giant rabbits.
“They’re the biggest breed in the world,” said the 11-year-old, with a great temperament and thick coat. Among the six adults and three babies, she has a grand champion and a doe she hopes can earn her best of breed at this year’s fair. She also finished her first quilt this year, which she also plans to enter. She wanted to encourage fairgoers to stop by not just the animal barns, but the 4-H building full of arts, crafts, woodwork, technology and more.
“We work hard on those,” Chloe said.
Walking through the horse barn during the fair is what hooked Robby Blair on 4-H at age 7.
“I loved seeing the horses in the barn,” he said. “I told my mom I wanted to bring a horse.”
For years, he showed horses at the fair — first Lady, then Dan. He also did projects on small engines, veterinary science, art, sewing and more.
“I enjoyed all the different projects and opportunities I’ve been given,” he said. Those opportunities can include national trips — Nicole and her brother went to Space Camp in Alabama; both Robby and Katie Stenroos with the Puppy Pals 4-H Club have taken trips to Washington D.C.
“4-H can take you everywhere,” said Stenroos, who will compete Aug. 22 with her dog Bert at the Douglas County 4-H Dog Show. The two will tackle the agility course and obedience project, then dance together.
A number of Douglas County 4-H members have competed at the state fair level and the state equine Gymkhana competition. Nicole earned enough money to buy her own steel drum by showing poultry at the state fair.
Local youth, including Robby and Katie, have taken on statewide youth leadership roles.
“That’s what 4-H is about,” said Vicki Garro, leader of Puppy Pals. “Training leaders and having fun while doing it.”
The program, leaders said, is much more than fairs and animals.
“4-H definitely made me who I am today,” Katie said. She credits the club with helping develop her confidence, communication skills and a role as a leader.
Robby said the opportunities and projects 4-H offered brought him out of his shell and helped him discover who he is inside.
The “land down under” had beautiful scenery and super-friendly people, he said. The Lake Nebagamon teen’s “Crikey” moment came when he saw kangaroos bouncing across a field and pulled out his camera.
“They were laughing hysterically,” Robby said of his host family. But he took more than 400 pictures on the trip and forged an international connection. It took a year of fundraising and paperwork to pull it off, but it was worth it.
“I’m trying to push some kids in 4-H right now to go on these same trips,” he said.