In a time when many McLeod County residents are feeling cooped up due to COVID-19, the local 4-H has found ways to connect its members and provide opportunities during the pandemic.
Darcy Cole, McLeod County 4-H program coordinator, and local 4-H federal officers McKenna Wright, Emma Becker and Julia Quast reviewed those achievements in the annual report to the McLeod County Board Oct. 6, shortly after that week had been declared National 4-H Week in McLeod County.
"It was a time where we had to think really differently about how things look and feel," Cole said. "A lot of things were offered virtually. But we did have some opportunities to be in person."
4-H usually offers its soap making class in person, but this year it went digital, much like other opportunities typically associated with the local or state fairgrounds. In the local showcase, 120 youth showcased 677 projects. Animal science showcases were made possible with in-person animal shows followed by virtual interviews that would normally be carried out face to face.
State projects went digital, with six youth exhibiting nine livestock projects. Another 14 youth exhibited 22 static projects to bring home 17 blue ribbons and two purple ribbons. Eight local 4-H'ers were in the top 10 animal science rankings, with one named reserve champion. 4-H'ers brought home an award of excellence, two finalist awards and a reserve champion reward in showmanship. Three locals participated in the dairy showcase, with McKenzie Swanson in ninth place, Kiley Lickfelt at 14th place and Emma Friauf at 16th place.
"It's hard enough in a regular year," said McLeod County Vice Chair Doug Krueger. "You guys did an excellent job."
A few activities were able to be held in person, such as horse arena riding practice after July 1.
"It helped reduce the feelings of isolation that people had," Cole said.
Shooting sports practices, which tend to grow quiet during the summer after a winter spike, remained popular throughout recent months.
"People were looking for something positive to do in person, and to be able to interact with each other," Cole said.
"Our ability to put together an in-person show for these kids, and our shooting sports program as well, was something very few kids nationwide were able to participate in," said Board Member Paul Wright, who credited 4-H staff and volunteers for implementing safe practices. "These kids will move forward and be an absolute asset to their community. They're worth all of the investment that we can put forward."