By Chad Koenen
Local youth and advisors in 4-H will be taking center stage this week in honor of national 4-H week. The week is aimed at recognizing the work and contributions made by 4-H people in the community, which goes far beyond just showing animals and projects at the county fair.
“Everybody thinks of the fair and they don’t think of the other opportunities,” said Denise Menze of the Ottertail Lakers 4-H group. “We are looking forward to building a bench this year and I think we will try to put it in the Ottertail park or the community center.”
In honor of national 4-H week, the Henning Shining Lights are encouraging local youth to wear their 4-H shirts. The group is also planning to do some classroom activities with first grade students at Henning School. The final details about that project are being finalized with the school, but in the past members of the Henning Shining Lights worked on a STEM project with students and told students about some of the activities available to people who participate in 4-H.
While people typically associate 4-H with the county fair and showing live animals, Gabrielle Bunkowski of the Henning Shining Lights 4-H, said there is much more to being in 4-H than animals. For example, local youth can show fair entries that range from photography to growing plants, quilting and completing engineering projects.
“If you can do it, or make it, it is part of 4-H,” said Bunkowski.
Menze said three people from the Ottertail group advanced to state with non livestock entries earlier this year.
“You do not have to have animals to be in it,” she said. “We had three kids go to state this year with non livestock entries.”
Community service projects are also an important part of 4-H and that is no different to the Ottertail and Henning 4-H groups. The Henning Shining Lights complete everything from ditch cleaning to helping the Landmark Center get ready for Christmas. They also recently received a grant and purchased two apple trees that were planted along the walking path by Willow Creek.
The Ottertail Lakers group also completed several community service projects over the past year including making a donation to the food shelf, painting the picnic tables at the park in Ottertail and even had a mini petting zoo with rabbits at First National Bank in Ottertail in advance of Easter. As part of the petting zoo, people could come to the bank and get their picture with a rabbit.
“The kids got to come and hold a rabbit,” said Menze. “The kids loved it and all of the people who came in…they had a really good turn out.”
The Ottertail Lakers 4-H group has 17 local youth in the group and typically meets the third Sunday of the month at the Ottertail Community Center.