MITCHELL — Beginning with 12 members who owned dairy goats in 1994, the Just Kidding Around 4-H Club is in it’s 25th year and now boasts 48 members competing in a variety of categories.
Over the past 25 years, the club has been involved in service projects, including planting trees at the fairgrounds, landscaping and maintaining the flower garden at the fair entrance, petting zoos at Peaceful Prairie Nursery in Mitchell, volunteer work wrapping Christmas presents at Murdoch’s, preparing meals for the Matthew Project, preparing Thanksgiving meals for local families and purchasing and delivering Christmas gifts, meals and household essentials for local families.
Jana Schwartz, 4-H Extension Associate for the University of Nebraska, said Just Kidding Around is one of the most well-rounded clubs around with the number of projects its members will enter in multiple categories at the fair this year. She said she has had the opportunity to work closely with the club and see the impact of it’s members.
“That’s because the leaders get 4-H,” Schwartz said. “They get positive youth development and how they can facilitate that.”
Janelle Anderson and Carolyn Thomas were the original leaders of the club and are among the many adult leaders who volunteer their time to support the current membership. Thomas said without Anderson’s goat experience, the club wouldn’t be where it is today.
“She is our guiding light, whose expertise trained all of our future leaders,” Thomas said of Anderson.
Several of the original club members have pursued agriculture-related careers, while others have gone into fields such as teaching and medicine. Robert Cover is one of those original 1994 members. He is now a rancher north of Mitchell, and his step-daughter Addison Lashley is in her second year in Just Kidding Around.
“It’s easy to get the kids involved,” Cover said. “And I’ve got another one, my son, coming up who will be in it next year. So, we’re going to be doing this for a while.”
Current club president Katelan Rogers said it’s nice to have the support of the club’s leadership for direction and help with projects.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “Especially with the younger kids when you get to see them get excited about their projects.” Rogers said all the days in 4-H are physically tough, but sale day is emotionally tough. She said it’s nice to see the entire community come together to support the youth on sale day.
Autumn Pittman is the county 4-H representative and is part of three generations involved in the club. Her grandmother Patty Pittman has been a leader in the group since it’s inception, and Autumn’s father Adam was a 1994 charter member.
Taking part in multiple categories keeps Autumn Pittman busy. She said the best part of fair week is showing the animals, but admits “the hardest part is getting the lambs to walk.”
The greatest lessons to be learned in 4-H include communication skills, people skills, financial skills and the importance of volunteer work, according to Cover.
“It’s about the life lessons it teaches young kids,” he said. “They might not recognize it at the moment, but one day they’ll look back and appreciate it.”