Local 4-H projects reach beyond livestock in Routt County | SteamboatToday.com

Local 4-H projects reach beyond livestock in Routt County

Tiinsley Wilkinson shows off the dress she made at last week’s 4-H Exhibit Day and Fashion Revue at Soroco High School. The event was followed by an awards ceremony where local 4-H members where honored for their projects.

Tiinsley Wilkinson shows off the dress she made at last week's 4-H Exhibit Day and Fashion Revue at Soroco High School. The event was followed by an awards ceremony where local 4-H members where honored for their projects.
John F. Russell

— This week the focus of the Routt County Fair will include children and animals, but Karen Massey, Routt County Extension director, wants people to know that 4-H is about a lot more than just livestock.

"I get frustrated every year about this time because everybody is focusing on animals," Massey said. "The part of 4-H that I deal with is the non-livestock or the indoor projects. That includes things like sewing, computers, robots and model rocketry. We have over 100 projects for 4-H children.

In total, 300 children in Routt County take part in 4-H programs, according to Massey, and about half of those youth take part in the indoor programs and some participate in both livestock and non-livestock programs.

"They work on them all year — not only in large groups, but often with one mentor, or a grandfather or somebody that's going to teach them that skill," Massey said. "That's what 4-H is all about. It's about learning a skill."

Massey leads a number of different projects in Routt County that have nothing really to do with livestock, and those projects were honored last week as part of the Routt County 4-H Exhibit Day and Fashion review that took place at Soroco High School in Oak Creek.

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Ribbons were handed out for projects including artistic clothing, wildlife, clothing, heritage arts, cake decorating, foods and nutrition, entomology, sport fishing, outdoor adventures, leather craft, woodworking, welding, robotics, shooting sports, photography and veterinary science.

The day is special to Lee Meyring, who has been involved with 4-H since he was a child growing up in Walden. He helps run the veterinary sciences program, which honored its top students at Exhibit Day last week. It was the culmination of a program that began in April and introduced young people in Routt County to veterinary science.

"It's near and dear to my heart," said Meyring, who works as a veterinarian at Steamboat Veterinary Hospital here in Steamboat Springs.

Meyring has met with the children every Monday since April at his offices and introduces them to the things he does on a daily basis. In some cases, the program introduces children to livestock, but more often, the subjects are more in line with the family pet.

As a part of the program the children must pick out a topic, research it and present it at exhibit day. The top students can earn ribbons and a shot at the state fair for their work.

'I've been doing this the past 18 to 20 years," Meyring said. "It's a great way to be introduced to veterinary science, and it's a lot of fun."

Meyring, who raised steers for 11 years as part of 4-H in his home town, said the nontraditional 4-H programs offer children a great opportunity and educational experiences. He admits that he didn't take part in any of the indoor programs growing up in northern Colorado because he was too busy raising steers. But he sees the value in programs like sewing, cake decorating and veterinary science. He looks at it as an opportunity to get more children involved in 4-H and to introduce them to new skills.

This year Exhibit Day took place July 29 with awards handed out following the fashion review on July 31. While the events come more than a week before the Routt County Fair, Massey explains that the event, in many ways, is just as important.

The winners in projects ranging from artistic clothing to robotics are invited to compete at the state fair, which takes place the same time as the Routt County Fair.

"Exhibit Day is the culmination of those indoor projects. The culmination of the animal projects will be at fair," Massey said. "People who get a blue ribbon in their age group and for their project will get sent to the state fair and will represent Routt County in Pueblo."

But more important than the ribbons is the role the programs play in teaching young children the value of time-honored traditions.

"These 4-H programs work because there are volunteers that have helped each one of these children learn those skills. I hate to say it but we are running out of volunteers that understand things like sewing and cake decorating," Massey said. " I encourage anybody who has a skill they want to share with youth to contact the Extension Office. We have a place for you because these kids are hungry to work with mentors that have the skills they want to learn."

For complete Exhibit Day results, see Saturday's Steamboat Today.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966