Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on September 27, 2012 at 11:11 AM by Global Reach

4-H made its roots in Plymouth County in the mid 1920’s with around 25 clubs being organized in the first few years.  Records show that they were primarily girls clubs or boys clubs.  They didn’t mix until later years.  The boys raised livestock and the girls worked on home making skills.  Lessons were taught at each meeting and the girls did demonstrations; many of which went on to compete in Des Moines.  

In the early 1930’s the Plymouth County Girls Clubs held a Rally Day.  It was held in the Le Mars Community High School.  The day consisted of singing, a business meeting, election of club officers, installation of county officers and a recreation hour.  A contest was held where girls competed in reciting the County Girl Creed.  There was also a Better Groomed Girl contest.  Each club could enter one girl in the 10-14 age group and one in the older age group.  The girls were voted on, then in the clothing year the older group would get to represent Plymouth County at the Ames Convention.  The winner of the younger group would have a fun day at the Clay County Fair in Spencer.     

A fair was held in Merrill for many years until it finally out grew the facilities.  It was in May 1941 that a special meeting was held at the Union Hotel, that the Le Mars Chamber of Commerce unanimously voted to purchase the twenty acres to be used for the promotion of agriculture and 4-H club work in Plymouth County.  The first Plymouth County Fair was held in Le Mars at the present location in September 1941. An agricultural society was then organized in 1944.  They voted to authorize county 4-H clubs to erect buildings and make improvements.

One 4-H alum remembers pedaling his bicycle down dirt roads to sell foot-long pencils to the neighbors to raise money for the new fairgrounds. The pencils had the words “Plymouth County Agricultural Society” printed in green letters on them.  Every club member was supposed to take a couple of pencils and go around the neighborhood asking for a dollar donation to get enough money to make a down payment on the new fairgrounds.  The pencil selling was a success.  The summer of 1941, 4-H’ers helped carry buckets of cement during construction of the first building.

Different clubs took turns each day.  Every 4-H’er that helped got to carve their initials in the cement.  This first building would serve as the fair office as well as house other animals.  The first six pens were sheep pens.  The next six were for dairy cattle and the north half was for hogs.  A tent was located in the middle of the grounds that housed the beef projects.  The rest of the fairgrounds was planted with barley to generate some more income for the fairgrounds.  Girls used the county club for their exhibits and boys would use tents for exhibits that didn’t fit in the one building.  In 1947 a block building and two more livestock barns were built.   The show was growing rapidly and more room would soon be needed.  In 1948 a loud speaker was installed at the fairgrounds and the sixth livestock building would be built.

During the 1948 fair, a record three day attendance was recorded at 15,000 people.  Each year the fair continued to grow with new buildings, food stands, and bigger entertainment.  In 1956 eleven more acres were purchased for $1,000 per acre.  Another swine barn would be built with a scale under roof, seating for 100 people, and a show ring.  In 1964 the 4-H Ag Committee was given the okay to build a 4-H food stand.  This would be a joint food stand with the girls and boys clubs.  In that same year the fairboard bought a building that would be used at the girls’ 4-H building.

The first Plymouth County Fair queen, Cindy Allen, would be crowned in 1965.  This tradition would carry on to the present with the addition of a king contest in 2001.  Caine Westergard of Ireton, was named the 2009 Iowa State Fair Queen.   In August 1991, Plymouth County celebrated their 50th anniversary as a county fair with a 4-H club banner contest, a town parade, an alumni get-together, and special recognition of county fair queens.  The Plymouth County Fair adds new attractions and accommodations each year making it what one of our past fair kings, Brian Vos, refers to as “the best 4 days of summer”!  The fair continues to break attendance records today with over 80,000 people attending the four day event.  2005 was the start of our first five day fair.  In 2012, the Plymouth County Fair attendance was 92,000 over the course of the fair. 

In 1962 a two-day boy’s basketball tournament started. They played five minute quarters, with a winner’s bracket and a consolation bracket.  A 4-H Volleyball Tournament was then started in 1980 and continues today.  Over the years, there have been up to four different categories:  Senior Girls, Senior Co-Ed, Junior Girls, and Junior Co-Ed.  Each team played the best two of three matches.  As the tournament has evolved, the teams are now all co-ed and there is a Junior and a Senior division.  There was also a winner’s bracket and a consolation bracket. 

The rich 4-H tradition continues still today in Plymouth County.  Many county and area workshops and camps take place for both boys and girls.  The County Council, a group a high school aged 4-H’ers, help plan activities in the county such as school visits promoting 4-H during National 4-H Week, a window display contest, a Halloween Party, Recognition Night, Ice Skating Party, Volleyball Tournament, Officer Training, Family Flick Movie Day and activities at the fair.  Our 4-H’ers have had many exhibits over the years chosen to compete at district and state levels.  We also have had several members that have represented us on the State 4-H Council and that have taken part in the Citizenship Washington Focus trip and State 4-H Youth Conference. Plymouth County currently has 25 clubs with more than 425 youth actively enrolled in the  4-H program. 

*The information for this report was taken from the Plymouth County 4-H Cookbook, “Changing with the Times” which was published and sold in 2002 raising money for the clock tower that was built on the fairgrounds.  The beginning of the cookbook consisted of a the history of the Plymouth County Fair, a list of honorary fairboard members, past fair queens, Hall of Fame members, Leaders of Year, a list of all the clubs that were ever formed in Plymouth County and the years that they existed.  Leaders/members from 50 different clubs submitted a brief history of their club to be published in the cookbook.  The cookbook consisted of recipes from members, parents, and volunteers.  Many recipes had been exhibited at the Plymouth County Fair.

A county wide 4-H Shooting Sports program was established in 2008 in partnership with Woodbury County 4-H.  The name PlyWood Busters was selected by charter members of the special interest club.  In 2011, each county elected to have their own Shooting Sports club but the name remains in Plymouth County.  

The former Hall of ’84 on the Plymouth County Fairgrounds was renovated for the 4-H static exhibits in 2010.  4-H clubs and individuals raised nearly $12,000 toward the renovation project by having club fundraisers such as a soup suppers and selling cookie dough.  Loyal 4-H volunteers and supporters build display boxes, installed slot board, and photo display boards to make a state of the art exhibit facility.

The inspiration came from a similar building project at the Clay County Fair.  

The 4-H Foodstand, originally built in 1964, was renovated a third time in 2005 prior to the RAGBRAI overnight start in Le Mars that summer.  The serving line formed on the west side of the stand for the first time in 41 years.  It caused quite a discussion around the question, “But we’ve always done it that way.”  The installation of new serving windows for 3 full service lines proved to be quite efficient.  

An official Express Window on the west also added to the more efficient service.  Two cashier lines have been added and operated with cash registers that were gifts from First National Bank , Le Mars, Schneider Swine and the Lincoln Toppers 4-H Club.  The 4-H Foodstand had a record net profit in 2011 of $14,401.  The 4-H Foodstand profits along with $10 contributions from each, the Plymouth County Extension Council and the Plymouth County Fairboard meet the $30 Program Development fee assessed for each 4-H member by the State 4-H program.  

In 2009, Seed Fund was started with the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines in the hopes of starting a Plymouth County 4-H Foundation.  Later, in 2012, a second fund was established with the Iowa 4-H Foundation giving donors a choice of two funds within the local 4-H Foundation.  The greatest boast for the 4-H Foundation was the gift of a John Deere riding lawn mower from the local John Deere dealership for purpose of a raffle.  4-H members, families, and volunteers sold more than $12,000 in tickets in the raffle.    

While the county 4-H program had occasional 4-H Clover Kids clubs, an organized effort to have Clover Kids in each community started in 2008 with four groups.  In 2012 there are 10 Clover Kids clubs, one in each community in the county. 

The Plymouth County Fair built a new livestock exhibit building north of the covered arena for the 2012 fair.  The removal of two livestock barns in that location plus two beef barns and dairy barn occurred in 2011 and 2012 in preparation of the new building project.  The new livestock building housed beef, dairy, goats, bucket bottle calves and an overflow of sheep for its first year. The cost to complete this livestock building and nearby wash rack was close to $200,000. 

Visit the Plymouth County 4-H website.

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