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Community support for Sundre-area 4-H clubs’ show, sale 'humbling'

Organizer praises confidence-building program that encourages youth development

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY – The Sundre and Bergen 4-H Multi Clubs’ annual show and sale is about much more than winning a championship title and fetching the best price at auction.

At its core, the occasion is more about celebrating the culmination of time and effort the budding adolescents have invested into their projects.

“Truthfully – like, we do put a lot of focus on the animals – but the main intention of 4-H is to develop youth, and skills in youth, so that they become high-level contributors to society,” said Quinn Murphy, vice-president of the show and sale’s organizing committee.

Previously held at the Sundre Arena, the show and sale was for the second year in a row hosted at Timber River Station east of Sundre on May 26-27. It was the 67th annual event but only the second time it was held over the span of two days with the auction taking place on May 27.

“It was really good. We sure have a lot of young members in the club, and it’s so good to see,” said Murphy.

“We don’t have a pile of intermediate and senior members, but the ones that we do have sure step up and seem to help the young kids, so there’s a lot of learning that’s going on.”

That combination of growth and mentorship is what it’s all about. Murphy, who is serving his second year as vice-president of the organizing committee, said he’s been involved in 4-H to some capacity for pretty well his whole life.

The member whose project earned her the Interclub Grand Champion Steer was 18-year-old Carisa Richardson with the Bergen 4-H Club, whose homegrown steer ‘Whiskey’ – a Simmental Cross – tipped the scale at 690 kilograms (1,521 pounds).

Offering his thoughts on what he saw on display throughout the show and sale, Murphy noted an improved “degree of finishing those market animals.”  

“Consistently, we’re starting to see bigger carcasses – more well-finished carcasses – come to the beef side of it for sure, as well as the sheep side,” he told the Albertan.

“In order to finish these animals properly, they do have to feed them quite aggressively and part of our intention in teaching kids is for them to understand how to raise these products that would go into the food chain,” he said.   

“Members are gaining a better understanding of how to properly finish animals that are intended for the food chain, or the market.”

Above and beyond main events such as the show and sale or public speaking competitions, the 4-H program also encourages active community participation through activities such as the annual food drive to support Sundre Santas, he said.

Even the public speaking competitions are less about titles and more about confidence-building.

“We always put a lot of focus on the kids who do really well in public speaking,” he said.

“But in my opinion, where we really see value is those kids who maybe do OK at public speaking, but had they not gone through that experience in 4-H, they would maybe be very reluctant to speak up in public forums as adults,” he elaborated.

“Even for the kids that aren’t the champions that we see announced in the newspapers and on the radio but the kids that just kind of show up and do a good job of it and aren’t recognized, they actually gain a lot of valuable life skills – whether they realize it or not.”  

In his experience, the results tend to speak for themselves.

“We see kids that show up and they’re extremely cautious on their first year of public speaking to the point where they really, really struggle to even get up on stage in front of people,” he said. “And then when you fast forward a year or two, you just watch how confident and comfortable those kids become by having gone through that development.”

The local clubs have over the last couple of years also endeavoured to expand their programming to be more inclusive, he said.

“We’ve tried to stretch out what we call achievement day so that we include more activities that are primarily focused on a single member and their project,” he said, citing among other examples the introduction of a more family-oriented grandparents’ pancake breakfast.

“It’s a unique experience because it’s not focused on the member entirely; we want to involve families and younger siblings, and older siblings, and grandparents and just make it very inclusive,” he said, adding that’s also part of an effort to grow the clubs.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve lost a couple of the more seniors families – they’re kind of legacy families, they’ve been around forever,” he said.

“So slowly, we’re kind of rebuilding and we’ve got a lot of good young families with active parents that put a lot of work into this. It seems like we’re finding our way; things are going quite well.”

Yet the success of programs and events such as the show and sale also rely on the public at large.

“The amount of support that we see from the community, it never ceases to amaze us. It’s been that way forever, but it just continues to happen and it’s so good to see. The community clearly puts a lot of value in the 4-H program and how it helps to develop youth and rural youth especially,” he said. “It’s so humbling to see it.”

Jim Bowhay, a Bergen-area farmer with no official 4-H title other than a self-described, longtime enthusiastic supporter of the program who also enjoys the opportunity to mentor up-and-coming youth, can’t speak highly enough about it.

“This 4-H has done so much for my family,” he said, adding his nephews and nieces have benefitted from the program and that before long, so too will his grandchildren.

Bowhay also praised the new host facility as a beautiful venue to hold the event.

Boasting plenty of interior space as well as room to stretch outside for people to camp for the two-day event, the Timber River Station arena’s sand floor is also ready to accommodate events involving livestock without worrying about additional logistical complications such as having to haul in loads of wood chips to the Sundre Arena and then back out again followed by a thorough cleaning, he said.

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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