Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on December 15, 2011 at 11:23 AM by Global Reach

In the fall of 1918, a meeting was held in Atlantic for older boys and men with an interest in pig feeding, to discuss the possibility of starting a club for the young people in Cass County. The next spring of 1919, a meeting of those same boys and girls was held at the Washington No. 2 School in Washington Township. Officers were selected, and thus started a 4-H Club in Cass County. By 1920, this club had 47 boys and girls from the entire county, and their main interests were sewing and pig feeding.

Cass County Boys and Girls Progressive Pig Club - 1921

By 1923, the interest in 4-H had grown to include 12 4-H Clubs within the county. This included a Baby Beef Club, Pig Club, Purebred Gilt and Boar Club, Dairy Club, Lamb Club, Girls Garment Club and Girls Canning Club. There were specific organized girls’ clubs in Benton, Pymosa, Washington, Grove, Union, Edna and Pleasant Townships.

In 1925, the 4-H program was threefold, including emphasis on making and selection of garments, footwear and music appreciation. The first county-wide Rally Day was also held in 1925 in Sunnyside Park in Atlantic. One hundred thirty members and their parents gathered in the morning, and after registration, enjoyed a basket dinner. Following the dinner a meeting was called to order by the county club leader. Mrs. R.S. Campbell, followed by community singing. Election of county officers resulted in Mabel Thomson being elected president, Mildred Joyce, vice-president, Lillian Metz, secretary, and Beryl Campbell, treasurer. Gladys Winston was entered in the State Health Contest in 1925 and won the position of tying for second place among all the girls in the state. Cass Township was organized and decided to carry a major emphasis of first-aid since they were all getting the clothing work in the Lewis School. 1925 was the first year Cass County was represented at the Iowa State Fair with a carload of baby beef. In the group of ten calves in mixed breeds, Cass County took first place.

The days following the close of the fair in 1927, members saw the beef calves loaded for their last trip to the auction ring in Chicago. Thirty-four calves made the trip as the Grand Champion of the show, belonging to Edwin Hendersen, was sold in front of the amphitheater the last day of the fair in Atlantic. The steer was purchased by the Greater Atlantic Club at $23.50 per hundredweight and sold over the block at the Sauer and Dahlberg Market.

A cup, donated by the Livestock Exchange to the best market pig, was given to Eleanor Hendersen, sister of Edwin. Roy Shepherd of Grove Township was judged the champion club member from Cass County and received a Chicago-Rock Island –Pacific railroad trip to the International Livestock Show in Chicago. Achievement Day was held at the City Hall in Atlantic, at which time Mrs. Clarence Pellett awarded silver loving cups to Pleasant and Washington Townships. The clubs tied for first place in the Music Memory Contest. Virginia Shahan and Helen Trailer of Brighton Township were chosen to represent Cass County at the State Fair with a demonstration on “Hooked Rug.” The 4-H health was emphasized in 1927 and each girl was given a complete examination during Club Achievement Program. Seven doctors from Atlantic donated their time to complete the examinations. Dr. W.U. Hammer and Dr. Code Hammer gave the dental examinations. Dr. Earl Montgomery gave the ear, eye, nose and throat examinations, and Drs. Barnett, Greenleaf, Roy, and F.J. Becker gave the general examinations.  Miss Ruth Wahlert was selected as the most perfect club girl and represented Cass County that year at the State Fair. She ranked fourth during the State Fair Completion.   
In December of 1930, Miss Viola Meints of the Extension Service, met with the township’ project leaders and their publicity chairmen for the Annual Poster Training School. Top posters were selected at the Achievement Day and advanced to the State Fair competition. There were 120 girls enrolled in the Canning Club in 1930 and they canned 4,389 quarts of food and planned and prepared 1,387 meals. The winning demonstration team representing Cass County at the State Fair was Gladys Frazeur and Helen Mueller of the Full-O-Pep Club of Pleasant Township with their demonstration on canning chicken. In 1930, the girls’ club names were the G.G.G. Club, Golden Dell Club, P.E.P. Club, Merry Maidens, Washington Workers Club, Full-O-Pep Club, and the Eldeen Club.

Cass County had eleven local boys’ 4-H Clubs in 1939 with a total enrollment of 156 boys. There were eleven girls’ 4-H Clubs in the county, and their major emphasis was on Home Furnishing. Members were enrolled in several clubs in the county. These included Baby Beef Club, Dairy Club, Pig Club, Sheep Club, Colt Club, Corn Club, Garden Club and Farm Record Book Club. Emmert Euken won a $25 prize and Earl Peter Kirk won a $10 prize for keeping the top record books. At the 1939 Iowa State Fair, George Peter Hopley won Grand Champion overall with his senior angus steer, and Wayland Hopley Jr. won the Grand Champion with his purebred heifer.

The boys’ 4-H clubs in 1939 were the Victoria Stockmen in Victoria Township with Guy Devore as the leader; G.E.M. 4-H Club in Washington Township, James Winston, leader; Benton Future Farmers, Benton Township, with Loyal Possehl, leader; H.O.T. 4-H Club, Grove and Franklin Townships, Harold Henderson, Leader; Victors 4-H Club, Union Township, Carl Pollock, leader; Massena Champions, Massena Township, Lou Raasch, leader; Pleasant Boys 4-H Club, Pleasant Township, Phil Frazeur, leader; Square Deal 4-H Club, Lincoln-Grant Township; Bob McCory, leader; Brighton 4-H Club, Brighton Township, with Charles Pitfenberger, as leader; Fletcher Chapel Clubs in Bear Grove Township, Earl Kirk, leader; F.B.A. 4-H Club in Cass Township with F.I. Norhtrup, leader; Ski Hi Club in Pymosa Township with Vallie Pellett, leader.

4-H continued to grow and expand to new areas throughout the years until 1950, when Cass County had 473 4-H club boys and girls and 73 4-H leaders. 4-H projects continued to rotate on an annual basis between Food and Nutrition, Home Furnishings and Clothing. Girls were encouraged to enter the County Dress Revue Contest, The County Better Grooming Contest, as well as can and freeze food, preserve jam and jelly, refinish furniture and construct garments.

4-H boys were encouraged to complete a baby beef project, a pig project, lamb project, colt project or dairy project. In addition to these specific areas, 4-H club members were expected to conduct community service programs including health, citizenship, fire prevention, and even gardening.

Cass County 4-H clubs also cooperated or took part in such programs as the International Farm Youth Exchange, sending garden seeds abroad, packing boxes to send overseas or to orphanages in this country, club and district camps, State 4-H Conference and State Fairs.
Cass County 4-H and FFA members exhibited at the new fairgrounds in Atlantic in 1950, moving to the west end of town. A number of special programs were always presented as part of the fair program.

1950 was also the year Cass County had the State 4-H Vice-President in Delores Prall. Twenty-five years later, Delores Prall Nelson’s son Kirk, was elected to the State 4-H Office of President.

By 1960, 4-H had continued to grow in Cass County with membership reaching 546 enrolled in 30 local clubs, with more than 80 local volunteer leaders. Annual County events held in Cass County included the Annual 4-H Officers Training, County Convention Award program, 4-H Family Volleyball Tournament, Mardi Gras, and many project workshops, plus the Cass County Fair.
The largest single 4-H activity held in the county during the year was the Cass County Fair.  The Cass County fair has continued to be a free fair supported by donations from local businesses with its primary purpose to evaluate the projects and activities of 4-H members form throughout the year.

The Fairboard continues to appoint fair superintendents, who in turn assume the major responsibility in conducting the overall fair. Project areas have expanded from the once two major projects in the county to a wide variety of projects.  Popular projects areas in Cass County include Beef, Food and Nutrition, Photography and Rabbit. In recent years the Cass County 4-H and Youth program have continued to expand.  A Discovering 4-H program was started for third and fourth grade members, and a Clover Kid program is offered to first and second graders.

2010 Iowa 4-H Youth Conference delegation and chaperoneIn 1995, Cass County joined with Adair and Audubon counties to offer a special interest program called “Speak Out For Agriculture”. This program was started after a group of community leaders asked what could be done to encourage youth to pursue a career in agriculture.  Funding for the inaugural program was through a grant from the Iowa 4-H Foundation. Today, a team of 12 youth from Cass, Adair and East Pottawattamie counties meet to plan a two-day overnight bus trip to explore agricultural careers, develop communication skills and build a network of friends with similar interests. Funding to continue this program comes from program sponsorships. 

The Cass County Endowment Fund was started in 2002.  The endowment fund helps pay for projects such as scholarships to send Cass County 4-H’ers to camps and conferences, pay a portion of the 4-H Program Development Fee, and support for 4-H program materials and awards.  Money for the endowment comes from individual donations, support from 4-H club and countywide fundraisers.

2011 Cass County 4-H Share the FunThe 4-H program in the past was carried out jointly with the Home Economist and the County Extension Director. However, in 1945 Dorothy Pont joined the Extension Staff during the summer to help carry out the 4-H program. From then to the present time, a special person has been in the county office conducting the 4-H program. Titles have varied for this person ranging from 4-H Club agent, County Youth Assistant, County 4-H Agent, 4-H and Youth Leader to the present title of Youth Program Coordinator. 


Old Cass County Fairgrounds

The old Cass County Fairgrounds was located at 5th and Mulberry in Atlantic. A mobile home park is in that location now.


History of Cass County Fair

Following several years of discussions by 4-H leaders and 4-H members regarding the need for a suitable center for 4-H and other youth activities, Lee Johnson and Floyd Northup independently obtained an option on 24 acres of land located at Tenth and Palm Streets in Atlantic as a potential for the present Cass County Fair Grounds. Extension Landscape Architect,

John Fitzsimmons, was authorized to develop detailed plans, which later became the general layout of the Cass County Fairgrounds. In organizing the administrative structure for fair, high priority was given to making the new Cass County Fair Grounds a total community project with all communities represented in the administration of the Fair Grounds. As a result, it was decided to have two boards established, one later known as the Cass County Agricultural Education Association and the second organization would be a Cass County Fairboard.

The Cass County Agricultural Education Association membership was made up by appointees of various community groups within the towns. The Grounds Committee was organized on May 2, 1949, with the original incorporators including Carl L. Reed of Wiota, Wilbur H. Blake of Atlantic, E. Schroeder of Lyman, Wilkes Sarsfield of Atlantic, Loyal Possehl of Anita, W.J. Breckerbaumer of Lewis, Lee Johnson of Atlantic, L.O. Schoenthal of Atlantic, Ivan Cappel of Atlantic, J.E. Amdor of Cumberland, Robert Reason of Marne, G.E. Blankenship of Cumberland, Ben McCluen of Anita, and Ernest W. Hansen of Griswold.

The original board included four members of the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce, four from the Farm Bureau and 4-H organization, and one each from the six community centers of Anita, Wiota, Cumberland, Massena, Griswold, Marne and Lyman. This board, in turn, took the lead and directed a campaign to finance the new community center with a goal of $75,000 to purchase the grounds and development of improvements. As a result, approximately $35,000 was immediately raised, and developments were stared in late July.

Five buildings were originally constructed for the use of the 4-H and FFA Achievement Show. Buildings included four open shed-type pole constructed barns, and a semi-enclosed shed-type building with cement floor for temporary use for the girls’ projects.
In the construction of these buildings, the citizens of Cass County demonstrated one of the finest exhibits of cooperative effort the county has experienced in its history. Because of the short time and the many details which were necessary to be completed between the time the project was launched and the established date of the Achievement Show, the Committee found themselves with only seven days to complete the entire construction of the buildings.

Utilizing announcements in the newspaper and some advertising and the use of line telephone calls for volunteer help, 4-H and FFA members and their fathers joined with business and professional people of the various towns to aid in the volunteer construction of the buildings. Many employers of manufacturing concerns in the city of Atlantic furnished the time of their employees as did a large number of farmers with their hired men. As a result, 600 man days were volunteered and work on the project of completing the building was completed on the opening day of the fair, August 15-19, 1949. The first officers for the new fair included Loyal Possehl, president; Lawrence Sothman, vice-president; H.E. Codlin, secretary; Ed Blankenship, treasurer; with directors, Clifford Christensen, Robert Groves, Glen Shields, Floyd Northrup, Eldon Kay, Edwin Fredericksen, and Lester Nelson.

Formal dedication of the Cass County Fair was on Thursday, August 18, 1949, with Governor Beardsley giving the dedication address. Herb Plambeck of WHO served as Master of Ceremonies with Louise Wintermute, outstanding 4-H girl from Taylor County, giving a special address. The Cass County Fair Board comprised two directors from each one-fourth of the county, with the officers elected at large. The Cass County Fair has always been a free fair both at the gate and at the grandstand except in the beginning when a charge was made at the gate.

The Cass County Fair prides itself in that it is a free fair.  Free Gate and Free Entertainment.  This is made possible because of the many donations and volunteer hours put in at the 4-H Food stand.  Volunteers begin meeting in March each year to set up work schedules.  Businesses, Churches, Fire Departments, and civic groups donate their time to work 4-hour shifts during fair week. In addition, citizens throughout the county are asked to make donations of pies, salads, eggs, milk or garden produce. Noon specials each day coincide with the livestock species being shown and include Roast Beef, Lamb Roast, Windsor Chops and Chicken & Noodles.  The line at the food stand each evening of the Cass County Fair stretches across the grounds. Fairgoers don’t seem to mind the wait as they enjoy visiting with friends and neighbors while waiting for their traditional Hot Beef Sandwich.

Trees were added to the frontage on Tenth Street in 1950, while the trees planted throughout the Fair Grounds resulted from a community improvement project by the 4-H at a later date. As the fair expanded, often times tents were used to handle the overflow entries. However, the Grounds Committee, in cooperation with the Fairboard, has maintained an aggressive building program to provide permanent facilities to house exhibits, both 4-H and commercial. The original 4-H Community Building was added in 1955 at a cost of $25,000. It is believed to be one of the first poured concrete buildings in the area.

In 1998, members of the Grounds Committee held community meetings to discuss the future of the 4-H Building. Once again community members took action to raise money, write grants, and donate time and services for the construction of a new Cass County Community Center.

Ground breaking for the new Cass County Community Center took place on August 3, 2000.  This was the last day of the 2000 Cass County Fair.  Later that month, volunteers came in to move massive amounts of dirt to level the new building site. The new building was ready to go at the 2001 Cass County Fair and was officially dedicated on September 9, 2001.

The Cass County Community Center features 7,700 sq. ft. of space with seating for over 500 people at tables.  This space can be divided into three smaller rooms with high acoustical folding walls. There is a large lobby on the north where the donor bricks and plaques are displayed. The Cass County ISU Extension Office is located at the North end of the Community Center.

Throughout the years, the Cass County Fair has changed its emphasis to meet the changing needs of our times. Heavily orientated to farm projects in 1949, project entries have changed to meet the needs of 4-H members who reside in towns and who have interests other than livestock. Animal Project areas such as rabbit, poultry and goats continue to expand.

Several long-time leaders have had memorials established and fairs dedicated to them. The flag pole, which is located in front of the Community Building, was dedicated in memory of Gail Harris, long-time fair worker. The 25th Fair was dedicated to Lee Johnson, while the 30th Fair was dedicated to Richard Dreager, former president of both Grounds Committee and Fair Board. The1979 Fair was dedicated to Harry Codlin, Extension Director at the time the grounds were organized.

The Cass County Fair Board, Grounds Committee and Extension Service have worked very closely together since the beginning and continue a strong tradition of partnering together to offer a top-notch fair experience for the youth of Cass County.

Visit the Cass County 4-H Website.

To make a donation to the Cass County Endowment through the Iowa 4-H Foundation, click this button. Then select Cass County in the far right column (My 4-H County) and complete the gift information.

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Continue the Cass County 4-H History and share your comments below.

It would be interesting for you to include in this article what the total cost was of the 2001 4-H Community Building including the grants, donated time and services, and cash; since you included the $25,000 construction cost of the 1955 original building. It would be interesting to know the amount and to show the "younger" generation just how much our dollar has depreciated over the years.
Larry Steffen | 3/20/23 at 3:16 AM
I just finished reading this history account of 4-H activities in Cass County and found it especially interesting because I am a granddaughter of Lee Johnson who had a part in the development of the Fairgrounds.
Kathleen Johnson Weber | 3/20/23 at 3:16 AM
I found this article very interesting about the history of 4-H in Cass county especially because my grandfather, Lee Johnson had an important part in the beginning of the Fairgrounds. As a child I remember him spending lots of time at the Fairgrounds but didn't know about his important participation.
Kathleen Johnson Weber | 3/20/23 at 3:16 AM
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