Many have benefitted from education 4-H provides

Published 8:46 am Saturday, July 14, 2018

One of the greatest institutions ever instigated for the youth of America is the 4-H Club.

4-H Club has something for everyone, no matter your socioeconomic status. My mom was a single parent of eight children and was always a huge believer of giving kids as many educational experiences as possible. She hated that she couldn’t afford to take us to museums, on nice vacations or give us special enrichment classes.

Not one to give up easily, Mom went to the County Extension Office in the courthouse and discovered she could start her own 4-H Club… and the ‘Aaron’s Creek 4-H Club’ was born.

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The materials were free and offered a variety of new and fun experiences. Bob Crawford was the County Extension agent back then. He had an old empty shack just off Aaron’s Creek that he allowed us to call our club house. Since Mom didn’t always have a car that ran, we would even walk the two miles to the club house to have our ‘meetings’ if needed.

Every year, Mom brought the catalogue home that described all the possible projects and we would pour over each description. She allowed us to take up to two individual projects and we always had one large club project. She made it clear, “If you commit to a project you must complete it.” Once the decisions were made we were given our materials that described the goal of the effort and all the elements we needed to accomplish it. Mom would check in with us to make sure we were on the right track and help us when needed.

The culmination of the Aarons Creek 4-H Club efforts was the county fair. I don’t know how she did it, but Mom made sure we got to go every year. I remember her pulling into the gas station and telling the attendant, “Two dollars of regular, please.” In those days that was just enough to get us to the fair and back home. If she started running low on gas, she’d put the car in neutral and coast down the hills. She’d sometimes say, “We’ll get home even if we have to run on gas fumes.” Being in a 4-H club got us into the fair free. Mom always packed a good lunch of bologna and cheese sandwiches and chips. When we got too tired we would gather under one of the tents to rest our feet a while, then begin the exploration again.

The county fair was always an adventure and even if we didn’t ‘place’ in a judging, just being able to display our projects and then being able to share what we had done with our friends was rewarding. After setting up our project displays we’d tour the barns, trying our best to pet every horse, cow, pig and goat within reach. We’d evaluate all of the displays laying bets on which ones we thought would win the blue ribbons.

The bright lights and sounds of the midway were magical. I can still smell the cotton candy and caramel corn. I remember watching with envy any child who could buy a double dipped ice cream cone. We’d marvel at the carnival barkers and cheap prizes that I thought were priceless. We never could afford to go to the shows at the grandstand, but it was a thrill to stand behind the bleachers and hear the Monroe Brothers play bluegrass or listen to the cheers of the crowd at the Demolition Derby.

I wonder if there’s even a way to count all the children and families that have benefited from 4-H? I know it gave our family some of the richest educational and entertainment opportunities of our childhood. The month of July, the county fair, and memories of the Aaron’s Creek 4-H Club go hand-in-hand for me and I find myself craving a double dipped ice cream cone, but now I can actually buy it!


Nora Swango Stanger, a Lawrence County native and Appalachian outreach coordinator for Sinclair Community College, can be reached at