Westgate 4-H

The Westgate Family from the Klassy Kids 4-H club showed support and appreciation for essential workers.

In Wood County there are 1,100 4-H members all working toward a common goal — to finish their projects and exhibit them at the Wood County Fair.

Projects may vary greatly from member to member, but the end result is always the same … to do the “best job” they possibly can. Some youth may have lofty goals to compete for county honors, but most just want to proudly exhibit their project and have fun with friends and family during the eight-day event.

The Wood County Fair is a very special week 4-H families look forward to, and for many, a time for celebration. 4-H clubs celebrate an end to a successful year.

The agricultural community proudly celebrates with a new generation of youth who are learning how to raise market or breeding livestock. Youth spend hundreds of hours feeding and preparing their animals for exhibition in the hopes of earning ribbons and premiums like many of their ancestors throughout the last 150 years.

Many of today’s 4-H’ers are not directly involved in agriculture, yet they celebrate the tradition of exhibiting miscellaneous items made or concepts learned. Fair historians say that the Junior Fair Building has a proud heritage of hosting the largest and best youth exhibits in Ohio.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has changed some of these traditions in 2020.

Just as 4-H clubs enrolled their members and started meeting in late winter, the world was turned upside down. Yet, through all the chaos and uncertainty, the resilience of 4-H members and volunteers remained intact.

Without missing a beat, virtual Zoom meetings quickly replaced the in-person gatherings in churches and family basements. Many 4-H project books were offered online and others purchased through Ohio State University channels.

4-H advisers and teen leaders creatively found ways to keep in touch with members and help them stay on their educational path. Clubs held virtual demonstrations and quality assurance meetings. The popular weeklong 4-H Camp program was canceled and replaced with a virtual “Not Your Ordinary Camp” with the help of dozens of creative, hard-working counselors.

Several teen and special interest programs were transformed into virtual SPIN (special interest) club formats. And through much orchestration, project interview judging (two, day-long events when judges talk face-to-face with 4-H members about their projects) was replaced with members producing cloud-based videos and slides that judges enjoyed and evaluated from their homes.

The way 4-H programs were traditionally conducted was simply not possible, but everyone with much ingenuity made the best of the situation.

Although we are still a few days away from the August 3rd opening of the Wood County Fair, 4-H members are preparing to make it the best week they possibly can. Changes in show schedules, social distancing, sanitization and mask protocol will likely be the norm, but it’s likely that 4-H youth won’t miss a beat.

Why? It’s what they have been trained to do.

Roth is an extension educator and does 4-H youth development.