Before Vernon resident Gina Flukiger became communications and marketing coordinator for B.C. 4-H, she was a club member.
“I belonged to the Agassiz Rainbow 4-H Club,” Flukiger told the Courier during a phone interview Monday from her Vernon office. “And I went to the PNE as part of the club.”
The 4-H Festival has been part of the PNE for decades and remains a popular draw for fair-goers who can get within petting distance of dozens of farm animals, including calves, pigs, horses and lambs.
This year’s 4-H Festival runs from Aug. 18 to 21 and includes competitions in beef, dairy, dog, llama, goat, poultry, swine, sheep, rabbit, sewing, crafts, photography and horse.
The 4-H was founded in 1914 with a goal to foster youth development and was initially steeped solely in a tradition of agriculture. Today, 4-H members have many options alongside agriculture including photography, the environment, food and aquaculture. The name 4-H is taken from the club’s pledge, “My Head to clearer thinking, my Heart to greater loyalty, my Hands to larger service and my Health to better living. For my club, my community and my country.”
While the focus of 4-H is still based on agriculture, a large component is teaching young people leadership and how to speak in public. During the 4-H Festival at the PNE, girls and boys can take part in the Speak and Show event Aug. 19, during which they’ll show off their public speaking skills in front of an audience.
Flukiger said says the life skills learned through 4-H are easily transferable to adult life. “For example, buying a car,” said Flukiger. “4-H gives you the tools to think on your feet and make a good choice. And then back up your opinion.”
The PNE’s Cloverbud program is open to 4-H members aged six to eight with special events taking place Aug. 20, including a writing competition and poster class.
Other events taking place during the 4-H Festival include the PNE Amazing Race, during which teams will race through the fairgrounds in an attempt to be the first to cross the finish line. As well, there’s the annual Scarecrow Contest during which clubs work together to create the most original scarecrows for judging.
The PNE’s manager of agriculture Christie Kerr said while the 4-H festival is still extremely popular with fair-goers, it has gotten smaller in past years.
“There are a couple of factors for that,” said Kerr. “Travel is expensive and the demographic for 4-H is changing because land for farming is also expensive. But it still remains healthy in the Fraser Valley.”
According to B.C. 4-H, of its 2,162 members 37 percent live on farms, 44 percent are from rural areas and 19 percent are “urban.”
The pinnacle of the entire festival is the 4-H Auction Aug. 21, during which many young club members learn the hardest lesson of all—how to say goodbye to the calf, lamb or piglet they’ve spent months raising. According to B.C. 4-H, these market animals are highly prized for their meat because they’ve been home raised and well fed.
For more information on the 4-H Festival and a complete list of agricultural events at the PNE, including the ever-popular Pig Races, visit pne.ca/thefair/agriculture. The PNE starts Saturday, Aug. 18 and runs until Sept. 3.