4-H fair gets city kids involved
JANESVILLE — Traditionally, 4-H has been a showcase for farm families and country kids.
But a growing number of city dwellers are involved in everything from craft projects to raising livestock.
Many Rock County 4-H members live in urban areas, according to Megan Rebout, 4-H youth development adviser.
“The kids that are involved, less than a third have an agricultural background. They're more of the city and town kids,” Rebout said. “In fact, most of the kids who show animals don't live on a farm.”
And they'll be showing off their skills in the heart of Janesville when the Rock County 4-H Fair opens Tuesday, July 26, and runs through Sunday, July 31.
Rock County has about 1,200 4-H members, 400 adult volunteers and 150 youth volunteers. Members can be involved with 4-H from the time they attend kindergarten until they turn 19.
Members participate in various activities, work on projects and develop life skills, Rebout said.
“It's a 52-week-a-year program to be in,” she said. “We have something for everybody. We have some sports. We have projects and photography.
“We have scholarships that (members) can win. We have the most membership in Wisconsin of all the counties. Word-of-mouth kind of gets people involved, offering opportunities for every age.”
A seven-year fair veteran, Kaitlyn Herden, 15, of Janesville, will show dairy cows and rabbits at this year's fair.
“It's a lot of work and you have to be very dedicated,” Herden said of showing at the fair.
Ben Kronberg, 16, of Milton, said he shows dairy cattle and swine at the fair. He also has presented at the state fair and on the national level.
Participating in the fairs gives Kronberg an opportunity to share his projects with others, he said.
“I really like explaining the work that I put in during the summer,” Kronberg said.
4-H members must be at least in the third grade to show an animal at the fair, Rebout said. She said members who do not live on a farm are partnered with an adult leader who helps them learn how to work with an animal.
“Most of the people show at the (Rock County 4-H) Fair or you can show (the animal) at other fairs or show at any other public place,” Rebout said. “You can show hamsters, guinea pigs, all the way up to the big beef cattle.
“They work with (the animal) throughout the whole year. If the kids don't own an animal, we try to find one for them.”
Grace Fenrick, 15, of Janesville, said she usually shows three dairy cows in the fair. Fenrick also has shown photography, youth leadership and cooking projects at the fair.
“My family lives on a farm, and we have lots of cattle, so it's been a dream showing them,” Fenrick said. “I really love working with (the cows).”
Participating in the fair also gives Fenrick an opportunity to view other 4-H members' projects.
“It shows all the effort that kids put into their work, and they get to showcase it,” Fenrick said. “It's interesting to see what other kids come up with.”
Most of those 4-H members stay involved until they graduate from high school or turn 19, Rebout said.
Plus, 4-H is something that youth can get involved in at any age.
“You don't have to join when you're in kindergarten,” Rebout said. “You can join when you're in the 10th grade.”
Once members age out of the program, they can become adult volunteers.
Thad Andrews of Edgerton was involved with 4-H while growing up in Darlington and now is involved as an adult volunteer. He said his 8-year-old son, Trevor Andrews, is now involved with the program.
“I love doing stuff with kids and being involved with kids,” Thad Andrews said. “My little guy is involved with Cloverbuds right now, so I told him that I would (volunteer) again this year. I like it. I was hoping he would get involved.”
Herden said being involved with 4-H has helped her develop leadership skills.
“My leadership skills have grown,” Herden said. “Before 4-H, I was a really shy person. Now, through 4-H, I'm not afraid to talk to large groups of people, and I've just grown as a person.”
Fenrick said 4-H has helped her become more confident and has given her the opportunity to work with others. Fenrick also has volunteered as a counselor at the Cloverbud Day Camp, which is held in late July.
Cloverbuds are the youngest 4-H members.
“It's really helped me with my communication skills and has helped me cope with other people and learn problem solving and working with other people,” Fenrick said. “It helps with my leadership skills.”
Kronberg also has served as a counselor at Cloverbud Day Camp. He said he enjoys working with children.
“I really like being a leader to the young kids and working with others,” he said.