Head, Heart, Health and Hands are the cornerstones of 4-H. Though most people think of cattle and agriculture when they hear 4-H, it is really about community.
The international agriculture organization for young people celebrates 100 years in Lethbridge and southern Alberta with a massive celebration at Exhibition Park on Jan. 7.
The Southern Region features 56 clubs including 950 members and close to 300 volunteer leaders from just south of Calgary to the U.S. border.
In addition to teaching young people about agriculture, 4-H also teaches them about the importance of community service and involvement, public speaking and even features summer camps.
“Most of them are beef, equine and sheep clubs, but there are also woodworking and small-engine clubs and photography. And one project is snowmobiling.
“There are no limits, if there is interest and you can find a volunteer leader,” said Andy Pittman, chairman of the Southern Region for 4-H in Alberta, adding there are also multi-clubs including an assortment of different activities like welding, woodworking and much more.
He is excited to celebrate 4-H community in southern Alberta.
“4-H is so much about community, so we’re building a little community called Cloverville with different streets and little buildings which will showcase what southern Albertan 4-H clubs are all about,” he continued, noting southern Alberta features clubs for pretty much anything you can imagine, including sheep, horses, photography and, of course, cattle.
“There will be a lot of different craft areas for younger people to do 4-H-themed crafts. And the Cloverville Museum will feature photos and stories. There will be lots of members and alumni on stage to talk about 4-H,” he said.
There will also be a town square featuring an art display and a photo booth and plenty of interactive hands-on displays.
The trade show, from noon to 4 p.m., is free to attend.
There will be a reception and silent auction at 4:30 followed by dinner at 6 p.m.
“We’ll be filling up a time capsule built in the shape of a grain elevator,” he said.
“4-H does have a rural base, but it appeals to a wide variety of people,” said Pittman, who, while he was never in 4-H himself, has put both his daughters through the program.
“I wasn’t in 4-H, though I wish I was. I had two daughters who started in 4-H when they were nine years old,” Pittman said.
A newer program is the Cleaver Kids which introduces kids aged 6-8 to 4-H.
“It’s been a very successful program,” Pittman said.
“Most people are involved until they are 18, then they get interested in other things, but you can go until you are 20.”
While his daughters are no longer part of the club, Pittman remains active.
“I’m still involved. 100 years is a long time, so it is worth celebrating. It’s hands on and affordable. It’s quite an accomplishment,” Pittman said.
Author, broadcaster, rodeo announcer, teacher, coach and actor David A. Poulsen is excited to be keynote speaker for the banquet.
“I was a city-raised kid, so I was never in 4-H, but I met a lady in Vermilion who was involved with 4-H and who loved horses. And I loved to ride, too. I met her while I was teaching at the college and she was teaching at the high school,” said Poulsen, who now lives west of Claresholm.
He and wife Barb took to the public-speaking aspect of 4-H as well as the equine portion of 4-H and immediately got involved as club leaders and judges of the public-speaking competition.
“We certainly appreciate the impact 4-H has on other people, and our son got involved with 4-H,” he said.
Poulsen won Canada’s Cowboy of the Year honour in 2015, the first ever time the award went to a broadcaster, but he has been a rodeo announcer for 37 years including four appearances at the Canadian Finals Rodeo and 28 years at the Calgary Stampede.
He has written 25 books since the 1970s mostly for children including the brand new “And Then The Sky Exploded” and has acted in the TV series “Heartland.”
He will touch on much of that during his speech.
“I have a literary hero that the kids and a lot of the adults will get a kick out of, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise. So I will relate the life and times of that individual and relate that to my own life,” Poulsen said, adding he is excited to just to attend the event and enjoy all of the displays.
He said the skills and friendships formed in 4-H are never lost.
“They are always part of you. The public-speaking skills they learn in 4-H are carried on through college and university. I always enjoyed judging those competitions and seeing the results,” he said.
“I always enjoyed the whole camaraderie aspect of 4-H, and the opportunities in the community like the 4-H highway cleanup. The skills you lean in 4-H never leave you. It is part of your life forever,” Poulsen added.
“I’m just excited to spend some time at the event and chatting with the members and alumni at the supper.”
Admission is free to Cloverville from noon to 4 p.m. Jan. 7. Tickets for the gala banquet cost $20 from the Exhibition Park reception desk.