Area 4-H can resume in-person meetings, activities
ALPENA — After a year of virtual meetings and programs, Northeast Michigan 4-H clubs are returning to face-to-face meetings, participating in activities, or are preparing to show or market their livestock.
Sheryl Wright, leader of Bean Creek Critters, oversees a group of about 15 4-H youth who mostly raise animals, but also participate in other activities, such as archery.
The club has been attending Zoom meetings set up by the MSU Extension, she said, but there are plans to resume face-to-face meetings in two weeks.
“It’s been a different year for them,” she said. “Some of them still have their animals and take care of them every day. I think they’re excited to be able to do the fair this year.”
Although Wright is excited to see her kids in-person for the first time in months, she said families can still attend the meetings virtually if they like.
Alpena County 4-H Supervising Educator Sienna Samp said everybody is in the same boat right now, where things are positive, opening up, and people are hopeful 4-H youth will be able to take part in the fair in-person.
The 4-H showcase and auction in Alpena County was conducted virtually last year because of the pandemic. The 2021 Alpena County Fair is scheduled for August 15 to 21.
Samp said Alpena County’s 4-H clubs reengaged in face-to-face meetings and volunteer events the week of May 20. She said 4-H youth have already weighed their animals — such as pigs, sheep, or cattle — which is part of a traditional livestock project.
“Certain animals are weighed in the spring and at the time they check into the fair because there are contests connected with rate of gain or different things like that that the kids participate in,” she said.
In-person programming for Presque Isle and Alcona county 4-H youth are also returning.
Alcona County 4-H Program Coordinator Les Thomas said he knows of a 4-H skeet club and a livestock club that will meet in person this week.
However, Thomas said there is no expectation 4-H leaders have to deliver the meetings in-person because they know people feel differently about the pandemic.
“Some people are not able to get vaccinated, and so if a leader wants to stay virtual, that’s fine too,” he said. “We just now have an opportunity, as a state, to come back in-person with Michigan 4-H.”
Thomas said 4-H youth can show their animals at the fair, although the Alcona County Fair is an open fair, and being a 4-H member is not required to participate.
The county’s 4-H youth can sell their livestock projects with the Alcona Junior Livestock Club, he said, which is separate from the county’s 4-H program, but composed of the county’s 4-H members and Future Farmers of America members.
In Presque Isle County, 4-H Program Coordinator Kaelie Fessler said Presque Isle County has a lot of recreational type 4-H clubs. Fessler is currently getting ready for the county 4-H program’s summer programming to kick off.
Fessler said the county’s Summer Rec program begins on Monday and its Cloverbuds program, which introduces children between the ages of five and seven to 4-H, begins in July.
“The kids I run into are so excited,” she said.