Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI
August 4, 1999, Page 24
Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.
Index of "Oldies" Articles
The Good Old Days
Compiled by Dee Zimmerman
Clark County News
4-H Club History
The 4-H Club program as we know it today was first organized in 1904. Clark County boys and girls’ Clubs were organized by school districts in approximately 1916. The beginning of the first 4-H programs developed from the calf clubs which were organized here in 1917. Those clubs were sponsored by breed organizations, corn testing associations, banks, and interested individuals. R. V. Brown worked as a county agent from 1918-1920.
The 1918 Clark County Fair, which had one of the first boys’ and girls’ clubs exhibits, ran from Sept. 11 to Sept. 14. The clubs exhibited pigs, calves, colts, poultry, garden, and farm crops. Early club leaders in the county were Meredith Knorr, Granton; Violet D. Parks, Thorp; R. V. Brown, Neillsville; J. H. Fradette, Neillsville; and Minnie Thompson, Curtiss.
In 1920 the club motto, “To Make The Best Better”, was adopted and at that fair, Clark County was said to have had “the largest exhibition of livestock in any county fair in the state shown from herds of one county.” At that time, Clark County had the largest stock barn in the state which was owned by a fair society. Also, that year, the Commercial Bank Pig Club of Granton was organized for the purpose of getting purebred hogs shown at the fair by boys and girls participating in the project. H. M. Knipfel took over the duties as Clark County Agent in 1920.
In 1921, the fine arts building, was constructed. To stay at the Clark County fair camp, each boy brought the following: 1 lb. butter, 1 dozen eggs, 2 loaves bread, 1 to 2 pecks of potatoes, and $1.25. There were 49 boys who stayed at the fair camp that year. First prize winners received $50 for each livestock breed.
Demonstrations became a part of club work beginning in 1923. Over $500 in cash prizes was awarded to between 150-165 boys and girls by that year’s fair participants. Lester Carter of Greenwood was chosen Honor Calf Club member.
In the following years, enrollments increased from 453 members in 1926 to 800 members in 1940. Leadership training sessions began in the late 1920s and club leaders were paid regularly. The new grandstand was constructed in 1928, enabling 20 4-H Club fair booths to be added to the space under the grandstand structure. Clark County was the first county in the state to build a dormitory for the boys and girls staying at the fair camp.
The team demonstration of Lenore Bartz and Anita Jacobi directed by Mrs. Harold Lavey of the Clever Canning Club of Granton and Romadka represented Clark County at the Wisconsin State Fair in 1929. On Oct. 17 of that year, Wallace Landry was elected the new Clark County Agent. An interesting feature of the year was that the Clothing project winners in the state received a trip to Paris, France and London, England.
During the 1930s, club membership and 4-H work remained stable. In 1931 Mary Orinda Osgood became part-time Clark County Club Agent. The machinery building was remodeled and improvements were made on the dining halls at that time.
Eileen Geisler and Alma Burmeister won the home economics judging contest at the 1934 State Fair and represented Wisconsin at the National Club congress in Chicago. Miss Ruth Huckstead was part-time 4-H club agent.
In 1938 Mrs. Arthur Berg became club agent. During those years, the 4-H newspaper came into being and it was published twice a year. The club leaders’ banquet was also established in the later1930s.
Club memberships dropped in the early 1940s, but began to rise by mid-decade. The Junior Fair Board was established in 1941. Board members were Everett Stark, Mabel Carson, John Perkins, Alice Olson, and W. R. Marquart. In the following year the county was divided into five districts. A representative of each district made up an executive committee. Delegates were Dist. I, Everett Stark; Dist. II, Leland Haas; Dist. III, Mrs. Art Thompson; Dist. IV, Mrs. Walter Swieso; and Dist. V, Irving Davis. In those years, 4-H picnics were held in Owen, Greenwood, and Neillsville. Throughout the World War II years, Victory Projects were emphasized and many scrap drives were held. Clothing and dairy were the most popular projects.
In 1947 the 4-H basketball tournament was organized. The bi-annual newspaper became a newsletter printed monthly. Paul Wolske was employed as assistant county agent and assigned 4-H duties. That was also the year of introducing 4-H club floats at the 4-H club parade held at the fair.
The 4-H band was organized under the direction of M. G. Hamel of Arpin and Ralph Abrahamson of Medford, making its debut in 1948. Blue ribbon winners who attended the Milwaukee Centennial Exposition were John Wilke for livestock and Arlene Mills for dress revue. The Curtiss Clever Club won the softball championship and Dorchester 4-H won the basket-ball championship that year.
Club work was curtailed in Clark County in 1949 because of the polio outbreak. The Clark County Fair was also canceled.
Many more projects, more 4-H clubs and more members came with the 1950s presenting keener competition. In 1950, Clark County won the State 4-H Recreation Award for the second year in succession. A movie of the Clark County Fair was made in the early ‘50s to use as club promotion, and folk and square dancing were introduced. County 4-H membership exceeded 1,000 members by 1954. It was also the year a flagpole was erected at the fair camp in honor of Everett Stark. Vigorous safety campaigns were carried on in that decade. Larry Babka became club agent in 1956, and John Oncken started as county agent in 1957.
Serajah Islam of East Pakistan was the IFYE representative and stayed with the Ray Baldeschwiler’s family of Thorp.
Barbara Haslow was crowned Alice in Dairyland and Nancy Huckstead became the Clark County Dairy Queen in 1958. The first parents’ night was held in 1959.
Joe T. Pietrek arrived in 1960 to take over the reins as 4-H club agent and with him came many new ideas for youth leader-ship. The IFYE delegates came nearly every year. The John Potocnik family of Owen hosted a delegate from Luxembourg in 1960 and the Delbert Hutchins family welcomed one from France in 1961.
The Interstate Exchange of 4-H members began in 1968. It continued through 1970-1971, with 9 to 14, 4-Hers being exchanged. Following the death of Joe Pietrek in 1970, Jim Van Wychen join(ed) the Clark County staff as 4-H agent.
Through the years of 4-H club work within the county, many dedicated people have given of themselves in time, energy and knowledge to enable a worthy program to continue.
(Some communities through out the Midwest have seen a decline in 4-H and open class participation in their county fairs. Each year, the Clark County Fair seems to grow in projects and exhibits with more to see and enjoy by its visitors. We can be proud of our county fair and should support their efforts on a job well done. D. Z.)
A 1980 aerial view of the Clark County fairground had some buildings which have since been razed and replaced with newer structures. The 4-H building was the middle facility in the background. The cattle barn with center show-ring was to the right of the 4-H building and the fine arts facility was located on the left side.
The Neillsville Boosters Club promoted the Clark County Fair on August 14, 1913, when a group of its members traveled to Thorp with bedecked touring cars. Each car carried a sign announcing he Clark County Fair, Neillsville, Wis., Sept. 2 – 3 – 4 – 5. Main Street, Thorp, had an assembly of its area residents viewing the promotional parade. (Photo courtesy of Clark County Historical Jail Museum)
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