By Mark Nicklawske

Mercedes the sheep and her lamb Lulu, Bovey the Polish chicken and dramatic spoken word presentation are included in work The Hills’ youth will showcase at the biggest annual event in Minnesota later this month.

Eight Hills Youth and Family Services 4-H members were recently selected to represent South St. Louis County at the Minnesota State Fair Aug. 23-Sept.3 in Falcon Heights. Their talents will be on display at the 4-H Building where close to 2 million people attend the 12-day event.

The Hills Youth and Family Services Animal Husbandry Program Director, Anne Macaulay said 45 Hills young people presented at the South St. Louis County Fair in July. All 45 earned blue ribbons and eight were selected to show their work at the State Fair.

“Isn’t that wonderful,” said Macaulay. “They took the projects seriously. They worked hard. Some surprised themselves that they could do such a great job on it. And they had fun with it too.”

The Hills has participated in 4-H, an international youth development program, since 1994. The optional activity allows young people to explore their creative abilities, learn organization and communication skills and take advantage of an on-campus farm featuring llamas, chickens goats and other small animals.

Each year, dozens of Hills young people spend months on their projects. The work is then presented to judges at the South St. Louis County Fair in Proctor.

Some projects are more difficult than others.

For example, Macaulay said two boys worked with a sheep named Mercedes who had just given birth to lamb named Lulu. The boys needed to harness the animals and train them to walk in an orderly manner. Not an easy task for farm animals or teenagers.

“They did it. It was really a wow,” she said. “Seeing those two boys with this sheep and her lamb at (the county fair), a totally different place than they had ever been, was really rewarding. They learned a whole lot about themselves.”

Macaulay said the boys learned patience, persistence and how to gain trust.

“That’s somewhat different in this world and day and time, where everything moves so quickly,” she said. “I was very proud of them.”

Another Hills student also worked with a sheep, but individually, to show at the State Fair.

Macaulay said a young woman teamed with a Polish chicken named Bovey in another project bound for Falcon Heights.

“She has really just bonded with this chicken,” said Macaulay. “It’s really neat. She spent a lot of time with the chicken, she really just likes the chicken. The chicken knows her when she comes down. It’s great.”

The Hills also had a strong showing in categories away from the barn.

A 17-year-old Hills youth earned a Reserve Champion honor in spoken word and will present his piece before a live audience at the State Fair.

“His (talk) was titled ‘Life.’ He spoke about all the lessons he learned and he ended it by saying I would like to share the key with you,” said Macaulay. “It was beautiful.”

The young man is scheduled to present his piece on stage at the 4-H building during the State Fair. A big crowd of 4-Hers and fairgoers are expected to hear it.

“That’s a big stage down there,” she said. “It’s really a wonderful opportunity and experience for them.”

A Native American youth also earned county fine arts Grand Champion honors and a trip to the State Fair with his beadwork. The youth learned his technique from a tribal elder and has been honing his craft for three years.

“He does magnificent work,” said Macaulay. “He showed the judge how he did it. It turns out it’s a big coping skill for him. What he would like to do is sell some of his pieces and use it as source of income. They are so quality.”

A food review project that highlighted a family lasagna recipe and a drawing project that reproduced the American Indian Community Housing Organization building mural on First Street in Duluth also qualified for the State Fair.

Macaulay said while earning a trip to the State Fair is great, all the young people who participate in 4-H have an opportunity to explore ideas and learn valuable life lessons.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” she said. “4-H is done by them. No one else does it for them. It can be the scary part sometimes, because they don’t know how to do it. But they learn to trust and ask…and figure out what they need.”

“Oftentimes this is the first ribbon they have ever won. It means so much to them. They will be walking around with their ribbon on their wrist or on their button on their shirt, so people can see what they’ve done because they’re so proud of what they’ve done. They’ve earned it.”

For more information on 4-H at the Minnesota State Fair go to the University of Minnesota Extension Service website.