4-H organizers ready fair, highlight importance

·2 min read

Jul. 16—ALEXANDRIA — The summer's blazing start portends the return of the annual Madison County 4-H Fair.

4-H is the largest youth development program in the nation, with over six million youth members. It can be found in all 92 counties across Indiana and offers children the opportunity to take on any of over 50 different project areas.

Bill Decker is a 4-H educator and the director of the Madison County Extension Office. He said the county's 22 clubs provide a valuable form of education to over 600 members locally.

"We help build leadership in kids and build self-confidence," he said. "It lets them experience a lot of new stuff and build those 21st century skills that you need to make a difference."

Over the years, kids have completed projects ranging from welding to fashion and Lego structures. Decker said those who visit the fair to see the projects are often amazed that they were completed by children as young as nine years old.

"The kids who bring projects in, they bring quality projects," said Pam Bohlander, the non-livestock and the exhibit hall superintendent for Madison County 4-H.

She said Madison County has one of the better fairs in the state, and projects which progress to the state fair from the county typically perform well.

Bohlander was a 4-H member for eight years during her youth, and she carried on the tradition to her three adult children and their kids as well, making them what she calls "a 4-H family." Apart from building skills, she said the program creates a common bond that is a great networking tool.

"Kids who are in 4-H, when they go out into the workforce or on to college, they run into people all over the state and the country and in conversations they will find out that those people were in 4-H too," she explained.

Bohlander said 4-H gives children the chance to try out different career fields, and some might even go on to do these in the future, whether it be agriculture, livestock or food science.

"We'd love for the public to come out and see what the kids are doing," said Decker.

This year's fair will be open to the public from July 16-24. Admission is free. Parking is free in the during the day, but some evening visitors might have to pay for parking depending on where they park.

Attractions include livestock presentations, the exhibit hall and live entertainment.