4-H clubs enjoy rise in participation throughout Fayette County

| Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, 5:09 p.m.

The Fayette County Fair was abuzz with excitement over the past 10 days, with thousands of visitors from all over the state viewing the exhibits and displays and taking advantage of the great entertainment.

Some of the most exciting moments of the fair however, were shared in the livestock barns and indoor exhibit areas as the dozens of 4-H Club members from across the county tended to their animals and indoor project displays.

“I like being a part of 4-H,” Tyler Anderson, 18, of Dunbar Township said of his nine years of participation in the program. “I have enjoyed the experience. It's educational, and I enjoy showing.”

Anderson is just one of the many 4-H members who look forward to the fair every year as a way to showcase their livestock or other projects, and Jennifer Diechert, extension assistance of 4-H Youth with the Penn State Extension, said the number of youths involved in the program is on the rise.

Diechert introduced “Areas of Adventures” to schools in Fayette County and visited several schools in most of the county's districts, bringing programs to the classrooms that featured fun and interactive projects and activities.

“It's on an upswing,” Diechert said of the participants. “I have definitely seen an increase in interest over the past year.”

For several years, Diechert's position at the extension was open, with the program bringing in someone to oversee the 4-H program only during fair week, but since she started in the position on a part-time basis last year at fair time, she has concentrated on bringing the love and interest of agriculture to the area youth.

“We have 20 active 4-H clubs in Fayette County, and most of those clubs now are competing at the fair,” Diechert said.

Two clubs, the Cloverbuds and the Robotics Club, were added this year and an older one, Communications and Leadership, enjoyed a rebirth.

Newer clubs, such as the 4-H gardening club, are also starting to catch on with the younger members of the community.

“I'd like to see it get bigger,” Valerie Seslar, master gardener and leader of the 4-H gardening club, said of her group of 12.

The gardening club was founded three years ago and the group works on garden and flower projects and has a small garden on site at the fair.

“I always tell everyone to start out small,” Seslar said of the gardens that are started by the 4-H members. “You can always go bigger as you learn.”

The livestock barns were filled to capacity this year, and many 4-H members such as Trudy Diamond, 12, of Smithfield, enjoyed just staying with their animals at the stall areas, relaxing, having fun and waiting to show.

“I really like getting to show my animals,” Diamond said of her Jersey cow Nutmeg and her other animals that she brought to the fair. “I look forward to the fair every year.”

Serena Anderson, 10, of Dunbar Township showed her goat Mr. Fluffy Pants in addition to other livestock such as pigs and heifers.

“I really like to come here to show my animals. I think it's fun,” Anderson said.

Father Gordon Anderson, a former longtime 4-H member himself, said he encouraged his children to join the clubs and get involved.

“They learn good skills and they learn how to deal with the animals on the farm,” Anderson said. “They also learn responsibility and leadership. It's a good program.”

The fair also welcomed for the first time exhibits and displays entered by members of the newly formed Cloverbuds, a group composed of members ages 5 through 8 who are too young to compete, but who are encouraged to enter projects and become involved in the programs.

The annual Fayette County Fair closed its gates for the year on Saturday evening.

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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