The 142nd Annual Arkansas Valley Fair is just a few weeks away and the kids of Cloverleaf Livestock 4-H club, Fowler, are busting their butts in preparation for the big week.
"For the livestock kids, their hardest work is just now beginning," said club leader Trish Leone. "They've been working and feeding and training their projects, but now it's the last few weeks they're really putting on the finishing touches."
The kids participating in livestock oriented events are busy rehearsing how to show their animals before the judges. Because the livestock will be presented as breeding and market animals, part of the presentation entails making sure the animals are at their optimum weight, said Leone.
About 95 percent of the kids in Cloverleaf Livestock's 4-H club are participating in livestock events of some sort, said Leone, and most of them have undertaken other projects in addition to their animals. Some are getting ready for other events, though, such as sport shooting.
"The shooting sports kids had a county competition and they're getting ready to present," said Leone. "When they do shooting sports they have to keep a record book and they have to either make a project or present an educational board."
The kids with livestock projects have also been working on spiffing up educational boards to present during the 4-H exhibit day, which is scheduled for Aug. 17. Leone said they thought the informational boards would be nice for members of the general public whom might want to learn more about the animals shown or the club itself after observing the events.
As a club, the kids of Cloverleaf Livestock have been engaged in community service, too. The kids just completed their Palisade Pizza fundraising campaign, said Leone, and they've just submitted all their orders. Once they receive the pizzas they will distribute them to those who purchased orders.
"We take a petting zoo up to Craig Rehab Hospital in Denver each year, where they do traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury recovery," said Leone. "We bring a petting zoo and we make boards about all the kinds of animals."
The petting zoo featured puppies, goats, lambs, a young bottle calf, piglets, cats and a horse. The kids also presented the animal education boards they are fine-tuning for fair time.
"In 4-H you can do anything," said Leone. "If there isn't already a project you can design an independent study."
Leone said that the Cloverleaf Livestock club usually has 30 to 40 members annually. This year they have about 32 members. 4-H enrollment is open year-round and is typically for ages 8 to 18, although Leone said there is a sister program for children ages 7 and under.
The 4-H program might seem to be all about livestock and agricultural themes, and in a way it is. But there is a deeper purpose for it all, as Leone described. Through the program, kids can develop a sense of responsibility. They learn about finances by tracking their expenses and income from their projects. They gain an appreciation and understanding for community service.
"They are community aware and they understand that community service is a big part of a balanced life," as Leone put it. "It's a really well-rounded program, but they get to do things they are interested in. It's not like the club picks the thing and everybody has to do it."
The youth program is also about family.
"The kids are the members but the family is the support system. The family has to enable the kids to complete their projects," said Leone. "They have to assist them with their books and their records and teach them as they go. The goal is that each year the parents do a little less and the kids do a little bit more. But it's not something that you can just drop in their lap."
Parties interested in learning more about Fowler 4-H can contact Leone at 719-468-9823, or email Marlena Griesse at Marlena.Griesse@colostate.edu.