By Leslie Wustrack
Special to The PREVIEW
4-H for youth was founded over 100 years ago and is commonly recognized as the largest youth development program in the nation.
Based on scientific research and managed by extension offices through a network of 100 public universities, 4-H serves more than 6 million youth in rural, urban and suburban settings. 4-H empowers youth to develop lifelong leadership skills.
In Archuleta County, over 150 youth, ages 5 and up, choose from over 25 different projects and work with dedicated leaders who guide them on a weekly basis.
Becky Jacobson, the Archuleta County 4-H coordinator since 2012, stated, “Youth don’t have to live on a ranch to be in 4-H.”
Other than animal projects, there’s cooking, sewing, cake decorating, scrapbooking and outdoor ventures, to name a few.
She applauds “the mentors that spend countless hours imparting their interest and their knowledge of each project.”
These are hands-on, learn-by-doing projects.
Jacobson “loves watching quiet, shy children become confident and knowledgeable leaders who are eager to make contributions to society.”
She added, “these young people become known as reliable community members. They are often sought after for jobs because of their work ethic,” and many earn scholarships from community organizations “because of their participation in community activities.”
Jacobson remembers watching a young woman in her last year of 4-H teach a novice 8-year-old how to show an 1,400-pound steer.
“It brought tears to my eyes. We all become family,” and that’s what 4-H is about, she said.
The Archuleta County Fair takes place this week, Thursday through Sunday, at the Archuleta County Fairgrounds, 344 U.S. 84. The fairgrounds are located just southeast of the U.S. 160 and U.S. 84 intersection.
The local 4-H members have been working since last October to prepare their projects for display at the fair.
This week, fair attendees can visit the fairgrounds Exhibit Hall, the Stith Room, the Livestock Tent and the Western Heritage Event Center 4-H building to view the 4-H’ers’ dedicated work and take part in the celebration.
The 4-H Chuckwagon benefit dinner will be held Saturday at 4:30 p.m. The dinner benefits the Archuleta County 4-H program as a whole. Tickets can be purchased from a 4-H member or at the fairgrounds information booth.
The Junior Livestock Auction will be held on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Anyone can bid on the animals. The auction brings in dollars that change lives.
Jim Bramwell, a Chromo native and rancher, stated, “The 4-H program kept my children out of trouble and paid for their college education.”
The current fair livestock supervisor, Bramwell has been involved in 4-H since he was 9 years old. Bramwell showed lamb and beef and participated in the leathercraft project; he excelled in 4-H and went to state fair for several years.
“All four of our children were in 4-H, as are their children. I gave my kids a steer and furnished the feed. They worked together to care for the animals, and when the animal was sold, they split the money and saved it for their college educations,” he said.
4-H teaches responsibility and, according to Bramwell, “my kids learned (life) skills. They learned how to be interviewed and demonstrate their project and they are all very good in their jobs because of that.”
Bramwell’s daughter, Terry Schaaf, is the CSU Extension office administrative assistant and the Archuleta County fair manager.
Kenneth Seibel, Arboles farmer and rancher, is the grandson of Milton and Bessie Seibel, who homesteaded in the Pagosa Springs area now known as Hatcher Lake and eventually moved to Arboles.
“Rather than going to the swimming pool, rural kids would participate in 4-H,” he said.
As a youth, he showed swine and participated in dog training and leathercraft. Seibel appreciated learning about Robert’s Rules of Order (parliamentary procedures) and became an officer of his 4-H club. Seibel and his wife, Jane, eventually purchased his grandparent’s property in Arboles, where Kenneth is known for his excellent hay production.
Jennifer Smith, the daughter of Terri and Jerry Smith, of Pagosa Springs, is helping in the Archuleta County Extension office during the fair. She attends the University of Nebraska at Lincoln where she is studying agricultural economics. She hopes to work in a small town in community development when she graduates.
Smith stated, “I would not stand out from my daddy’s legs when I was a child. I owe 4-H for building my self-confidence, teaching me public speaking and helping me to become a leader.”
Smith signed up at the age of 5 and participated through her high school years. She is a skill project leader in 4-H horse and “loves watching kids gain confidence in their abilities and grow by leaps and bounds from week to week.”
More than 150 volunteers are needed to help manage the 67th annual Archuleta County Fair.
Daily live music; a horse show; a ranch rodeo; Bares, Broncs ‘n Bulls; family entertainment and educational activities; a celebrity Tug of War in the Mud contest; games for kids; a petting zoo; exhibits; 4-H animals and projects; horseshoe and fly-casting contests; livestock showmanship; the annual Junior Livestock Auction; and the annual Saturday night dance and 4-H Chuckwagon Dinner are just a few of the exciting features scheduled for the fair. Everyone is invited to participate; there is something for all family members.
For a full calendar of events, sponsorship information, exhibit forms, volunteer and vendor information, visit the fair’s new website: archuletacountyfair.com.
By Leslie Wustrack