Clark County 4-H leaders weigh options after all activities canceled

All 4-H programs, activities and events have been canceled through July 6 in response to the threat of the coronavirus.

That announcement this week from Kirk Bloir, the assistant director for 4-H youth development in the Ohio State College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Extension Agency, confirms an unusual spring will give way to an unusual summer for members across the state.

Patty House, the 4-H director for Clark County, intends to do what she can to make the best of it in a county where 4-H was born in 1902 and 1,371 kids were members last year.

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“I mean, 4-H volunteers are pretty resilient,” she said of a group that numbered more than 360 last year. “I like to say that we’re good at creating plan B’s and C’s and working through the process and problem-solving, so you know this 4-H year is not going to be the typical 4-H year, but our goal is to still provide kids with meaningful learning experiences. And for now it’s going to have to be in a virtual format, but we hope in the future it will be where we can do some face to face programming as well.”

Clark County’s 4-H camp was to be held June 20-24 at Camp Clifton, but House had the unfortunate task of informing her 2020 counselors in a previously scheduled meeting Tuesday night all 4-H camps in the state through Aug. 31 have been canceled.

Their response was to begin brain-storming ideas to provide some sort of alternative camp experience.

“We talked about our personal disappointment and how our campers are going to feel about not being able to come to something that’s really very special to kids,” she said of an annual summer tradition that included 330 campers last year. “It’s something they look forward to every summer so I think that they wanted some time to think about OK what could we, you know, do and you know they talked about Facebook Live and ‘Camp YouTube’ kinds of activities and so we just have to work through things and give them a little bit of time to think. I encouraged them to think out of the box and we would see if we could as I always say, make the best better of the situation that we are in.”

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Many clubs begin meeting in January for the coming year, and House said the fairgrounds hosted a kickoff event March 4 that included over 800 people.

Since the beginning of social distancing measures in Ohio last month meant to slow the spread of the virus, House said many clubs and groups had already taken their meetings online over the past month.

“In Clark County we host a lot of face-to-face clinics to help kids with projects,” she said. “Those are going to be done virtually so kids are going to still be able to get that information to help them with those projects, but it’s going to be through webinars, and the goal once we get through crisis management, which is sort of what we’re at right now, would be to all have a time each week, maybe a different day each week, that would focus on a different project area, and then release a virtual learning activity that would be conducted and kids could log in that are enrolled in that project to help them work on those projects while we’re not allowed to have group face to face programming.”

Nancy Holt, an advisor for the Happy Tails 4-H club, said online meetings are going well for her group, which includes nearly 50 members and has been having weekly online meetings since February when a snowy night gave them a reason to try the Zoom video conferencing program.

“This is a really crazy year, but it’s kind of what 4-H is about,” Holt said. “You take your projects and you figure them out the best you can and to the best of your ability. And I’m so proud of our kids in Happy Tails because they have done an excellent job of staying on top of things most of them have their books finished.”

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House said efforts are being made to upload project books so kids can download them, and she noted several important dates have changed.

The deadline to enroll all projects has been moved back from April 1 to the 30th while dates members need to have animals in possession have also changed.

The new dates are May 1 for horses, rabbits, cavies and poultry; May 15 for market hots, market labs, market goats and dairy feeder calves; and June 1 for meat chickens and meat ducks, dairy heifers and cows, beef heifers and feeders, alpacas, llamas, dairy projects, pygmy and production goats.

Clark County Fair Board executive director Dean Blair told the News-Sun preparations are well underway for the fair to be held July 24-31, and that is not expected to be revisited prior to July 1.

The state health department has issued a ban on large gatherings until May 1, but that could be extended.

“We are hoping there will be a fair,” Holt said. “I don’t know when or how, but I really am truly hoping there will be fair, and I just think if we keep this anticipation of, yes, there’s that possibility, I think that makes everybody feel so much better.”

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