4-H Fix: Happy 20th Anniversary, Maine 4-H Days!

Happy 20th Anniversary, Maine 4-H Days!

By Ron Drum, Statewide 4-H Program Professional/Associate Director 4-H Resource Development

Amazing. Twenty years. That’s right, July 22-24, 2016 marked Maine’s 20th Maine 4-H Days.

2016 Maine 4-H Days scheduleWere you there? I was! What an event! Here is the schedule! Well, part of it, anyway. It was too long to post the whole thing.

Archery, Origami, Wildlife, Yoga, Training Working Steer, Horse Clinic, Poetry, Robotics, and that’s just a sampling of what happened just Saturday Morning! There was a Friday like this, a Saturday afternoon like this, a Sunday like this, and three full evenings too, four if you include Thursday’s! It was FUN! Have a look! See what I mean!?!? (Thanks Pat Gill for making this video!)


I was there to be a presenter. My session, “How to Make Your Dreams Come True,” was presented at 9:00 a.m. on Friday morning to six highly positive and enthusiastic 4-H’ers. I missed the Flag Ceremony. I arrived just in time to catch the tail end of the “Heidi’s Morning Meeting,” which started at 8:30 a.m. Was I glad I got to the Sugar House, where my session was to be presented, before the cloud burst, brief though it was! That Maine 4-H Days Team of Sarah Sparks, Alisha Targonski, Jessy Brainerd, Heidi Thuotte-Palmer, and Alice Philbrick sure planned and implemented a great event for the 20 anniversary!

You know, come to think of it, I was at the first one, too! But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

Actually, it all started twenty-TWO years ago, in late 1994. The teens who attended the National 4-H Congress, held in Orlando, Florida that year, had a great time and learned a great deal, or so they said. One thing they really enjoyed was the National 4-H Fashion Revue, an annual National 4-H Congress offering. On the way home they wondered if Maine could have a State 4-H Fashion Revue, too.

At about this same time, concerns were being raised across the state about the number of 4-H animal science commodity tryouts there were for Eastern States. Spread throughout the summer, it was sometimes quite difficult for 4-H’ers, and/or parents and/or volunteers and/or 4-H staff to get from one tryout to the next; sometimes running from one side of Maine to the other every week!

The first “let’s discuss this” meeting took place in late February of 1995. I was in Machias visiting Betty Creamer, Washington County 4-H Agent. She wanted to discuss a number of 4-H teen-related program ideas so I mentioned the Fashion Revue idea to her. She liked that idea and wondered if 4-H Demonstrations might be added and, as we talked more, we thought that perhaps even more things could be tied in, like the Eastern States Exposition (ESE) animal tryouts and teen conference-like educational sessions. It’d make quite an event; a celebration of Maine 4-H, you might say! Agreeing there was potential for the idea, we put out a call to 4‑H staff across the state to see if there were others interested in discussing a “combined” activity of some sort.

There were. A few. So we began to look for a date to meet.

Thereafter, as each state 4-H Committee (professional and volunteer), and 4-H animal science commodity team met, the question was raised, instead of holding different events throughout the summer, what if we tried a “combined” event, one event where all commodities came together on the same dates, at the same location, and included other things as well, such as a Fashion Revue, project demonstrations, etc?

Interesting to note, the animal science 4-H Volunteers mostly thought this idea probably wouldn’t work but, perhaps, should be tried. However, they said, independent of each other, if we did this, the event’s focus should not be on ESE tryouts, but on 4-H itself, tryouts being just a part of the final event to be held!

So on May 23, 1995, THE meeting was held. Seems to me it was at a restaurant someplace along the way, maybe Augusta, maybe Auburn; I don’t recall and the location wasn’t mentioned in the notes. What was mentioned in the notes’ cover memo was all the discussion that happened between February 28 and May 23! The memo declared, “This concept has received tentative approval from all five State 4‑H Animal Science Committees, the 4‑H Educators, The Maine 4-H Teen Council, and a number of individual 4-H members and volunteers.”

Heavy emphasis on the word “tentative.”

Donna Flint, recorder for the day, noted that attendees confirmed that plans should continue for “a ‘Mega’ event” combining 4-H ESE Tryouts and “additional educational and social opportunities” with the end result being an event envisioned as one with “extraordinary educational impact potential.” Attending that meeting were, in addition to Donna Flint, Dave and Sandy Averill, Diane Gushee, Judy Stoodley, Sue Morgan (and Sam), Oxford County 4-H Agent Susan Jennings, and Ron Drum. Folks who had called to say they supported the idea but couldn’t attend were noted as Pat and Steve Stack, Lucy Richard, Nancy Quimby, Steve Hessert, and Franklin County 4-H Agent Ray Corey. The Stacks and Lucy Ricard also sent letters in support of the idea which were read during the meeting.

This meeting even talked about what the thing ought to be called. “Tryouts”? “4-H Jamboree”? At the end of the meeting consensus (albeit tentative) fell on “Maine 4-H Achievement Days”!

More meetings were held that summer and fall and winter and spring. The end result? Well, they settled the name, at least: “Maine 4-H Days.” They also settled the location, thanks to the help of Susan Jennings (Fryeburg Fairgrounds) and the date (July 7-10, 1996). Then they worked out a schedule.

And then it, the first Maine 4-H Days, was held.

What did they do at the first Maine 4-H Days twenty years ago?

All of the Maine 4-H Eastern States Tryouts! Goat, Dairy, Horse, Dog, Sheep, even Beef, which didn’t actually have a tryouts event per se, but made one just for this event! The other stuff, Fashion Revue and the like, that’d have to come later. Start where you are!

Vintage 4-H T-shirtIt was a big deal. There was even a t-shirt!

By the way, there was always a great argument over if those two things in the middle of the shirt were dandelions or fireworks. They were intended to be fireworks but, somehow, dandelions that have gone to seed has a certain nostalgic attractiveness to it as well. Just saying. I believe the design was created by Betty Creamer. I can’t recall for certain and the little signature under the lighthouse isn’t helping much. If you know “for sure,” drop me a line to let me know.

There was even a BANQUET! During the banquet, we gave a t-shirt to John Rebar, State 4-H Leader at the time. Here’s the photo to prove it.

Ron Drum presents John Rebar with a t-shirt at the 1996 4-H BanquetSo, as it turned out, Maine 4-H Days 1996 ended up being “just” a “mega-Tryouts” event, certainly a step forward but not the “mega-4-H event” long discussed and dreamed of.

However, “Mega-4-H event” did come. Some activities were added in 1997 but by 1998, “Mega-4-H” had arrived! That year, in addition to the animal science commodities tryouts, the July 18-21 event held for the third time in Fryeburg, also offered a competitive trail ride, visual arts, an international/intercultural session, canoeing, entomology (presented by UMaine Extension’s Clay Kirby!), a wool clinic, Shooting Sports, Geology, even Working Steer joined the herd — as did a state 4-H Fashion Revue. Yes, Maine 4-H Days had arrived.

And stayed!

I, on the other hand, wandered! From 1999 until 2015 I worked “away.” However, each year, as we, my wife Phyllis and I, learned of how that year’s Maine 4-H Days was yet another successful celebration of Maine 4-H, we smiled.

That’s twenty years of smiling, with more to come!!

Did you enjoy this year’s Maine 4-H Days?

If so, write or email me and tell me about it. You may find yourself in a future “4-H Fix” if you include a sentence saying I can use your comments. Perhaps you enjoyed a Maine 4-H Days in the past. I’ll take letters and email about those memories too!

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University of Maine Cooperative Extension conducts the state’s most successful out-of-school youth educational program through 4-H, a positive youth development program that has been empowering young people in Maine to reach their full potential since 1913.