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4-H group prepares for first fair

The Tri-River 4-H club picked up garbage along County Road I this spring. Pictured (front, from left) are Laura Smith, Libbie Mitchell, Andrew Smith, Ty Madden, Riley McGurran; (back, from left) Rick Colbeth, Cade Colbeth, Sean McGurran and Kari Madden. Tri-River 4-H members not pictured are: Mia Olson, Abby Skramstad, Audrey Ahlness, Wyatt Engstrom, Stefanie Biedler, Keaton Broeren, Porter Broeren, Raya Broeren, Kaisa Engstrom, David Olson and Rachel Olson.

The Tri-River 4-H group is preparing for the St. Croix County Fair, its first fair since the group formed in August of 2012.

"The St. Croix County Fair is always a highlight of the 4-H year and of the summer for 4-H members and leaders," said Tri-River 4-H leader Ann Mitchell. Mitchell co-leads the group with Donna Smith and Becky Olson.

While Tri-River 4-H has been described as a Somerset 4-H group, Mitchell said the group actually includes members from Somerset, New Richmond and Hudson. The group was named for the three rivers that flow through the communities to which its members belong: the Apple River, Willow River and St. Croix River.

All of the group's 18 members, save one family, will participate in the fair.

"We have members exhibiting in the horse, photography, cultural arts, foods, flowers, clothing and youth leadership projects," Mitchell said, "among others."

Each 4-H member and his or her family has been attending county 4-H workshops to help them prepare for the fair. This is particularly helpful for the horse project, Mitchell said.

Mitchell said she is impressed by 4-H kids' eagerness to participate in the fair and other 4-H activities.

"I am excited about the enthusiasm," Mitchell said. "This group of families is so positive and willing and eager to do this."

She said when it came time to sign up for the fair a few weeks ago, she had been anticipating many questions, particularly from those club members who hadn't exhibited at a county fair before. Instead, she said, each family was very well prepared, despite the fact the fairbook isn't exactly what Mitchell would call "user-friendly."

"It was impressive," Mitchell said. "I just think the family commitment is amazing in this group."

Mitchell, Smith and Olson started the group last year to give kids in their area a chance to participate in 4-H. Some of the club members have been in 4-H clubs before, others have not.

Mitchell's daughter Libbie said she enjoys the way 4-H brings individuals and the community together.

"I like the community effort combined with individual effort in working on projects," Libbie said.

"For me, it's ... sustaining that 4-H philosophy,"

Mitchell said. "...helping kids use their gifts to bring about a healthier world. A world that kids have a chance to lead and to do service in."

Mitchell grew up as a 4-H member herself, and said promoting youth leadership is something that has been very important to her in leading the group.

"Seeing that continue is the best part for me," Mitchell said.

Another bonus, Mitchell said, is getting to work with her friends and co-leaders Olson and Smith.

"We've just known what each others' strengths and struggles are," Mitchell said, "so it makes it easier for the group to function with three different people who know each other well."

In addition to their fair projects, Tri-River 4-H members have played bingo at the St. Croix County nursing home, created pottery projects, cleaned ditches and helped prepare a meal for Grace Place homeless shelter.

The 2013 St. Croix County Fair will be July 17-21.

Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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