The Times photo by Betsy Reason
Hamilton County 4-H’er Luke Herr shows Beef Cattle during the 2018 4-H Fair Supreme Showmanship contest just before earning the Supreme Showmanship Grand Champion award. He is a 10-year 4-H’er and is a senior at Hamilton Heights High School.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason Hamilton County 4-H’er Luke Herr shows Beef Cattle during the 2018 4-H Fair Supreme Showmanship contest just before earning the Supreme Showmanship Grand Champion award. He is a 10-year 4-H’er and is a senior at Hamilton Heights High School.

I picked up a free license plate frame when I was at the Hamilton County Purdue Extension Service on Thursday.

“Proud 4-H Family” and “To Make The Best Better” were the words printed in white on the “4-H green” plate frame.

Every year at about this time, I visit the Extension office to pay our annual $25 fee, once that my daughter has signed up online for the county 4-H program. Deadline to enroll is Tuesday.

It’s pretty easy to sign up. Just visit the online link and complete the application if you’re a newcomer. Mini 4-H is open to kindergarten through Grade 2, and traditional 4-H is open to Grade 3-12. As of Oct. 1, 2018. If you’re returning, you know the drill. If you’re new, you need to create an account, with a password, and some quick address information, and you’ll need to choose at least one 4-H project and pick a club you’d like to join. Nothing is set in stone. You can add or drop projects until May 15, and the Extension office can help you choose a club that meets at a convenient location.
My 12-year-old is president of her Mudsockers 4-H Club, which meets monthly at the 4-H Fairgrounds. She just signed up for two projects, fifth year in Photography and second year of Dog Obedience, plus two new projects, Veterinary Science and Foods. 

While I enrolled in as many as seven projects a year during my nine years of 4-H in Henry County, my daughter thinks less is more. She gained so much knowledge from her first year in Dog Obedience, and even earned a blue ribbon showing her Golden Retriever. Her Photography project, for which she earned a blue and honor ribbons, had her snapping photos everywhere of all kinds of subjects.

Her previous projects have included Clogging, Health, Basic Crafts, Archery, Cake Decorating, Microwave, Bicycle, Consumer Clothing, Gift Wrap, Collections and Woodworking.

On Thursday morning, I visited with Maggie Herrington, office manager for the Hamilton County Purdue Extension Service. She was busy processing 4-H enrollment applications, for Tuesday’s deadline. “Everybody on staff here helps with enrollment and answers questions and takes phone calls and processes enrollments online to get everybody signed up and enrolled,” she said.

Herrington said prospective 4-H’ers can visit the website or stop by during office hours. “We have all kinds of materials that we’re handing out this time of year to get people educated about the program,” she said. The enrollment process is actually online. Anyone who doesn’t have online access can complete the form at a computer available in the Extension office, where they can get their questions answered.

My daughter is among about 1,800 4-H’ers who enroll annually in the county 4-H program. Her Mudsockers 4-H Club is among 37 county 4-H clubs. 
Mini 4-H, for the past couple of years, has been open to one grade younger, for kindergarten through second grade, said Herrington, whose oldest child Caroline, a second-grader, enjoys the Mini 4-H program.

Those who sign up for the 2019 4-H program will receive a 4-H handbook, newly printed with art created by 4-H’er Caelin Silitonga. (Each year, there’s a contest to create the cover art.)

Herrington, herself, was a 10-year 4-H’er, growing up in Sheridan and graduating in 1999 from Sheridan High School. “I took 10 years of Rabbits and Sewing and Foods,” she said.

She handed me a 4-H brochure with a list of the 66 4-H projects offered in this county. Photography, Foods, Arts and Crafts and Construction Sets are the most popular 4-H projects, she said. Each June, there are two days of Mini 4-H Day Camp at the 4-H Fairgrounds, and three days and two nights of traditional 4-H camp at Camp Shakamak, which always has a waiting list for grades 3-6, with older 4-H’ers invited to apply to be camp counselors.
Many, but not all, of the county’s Extension Service employees, grew up as 4-H’ers, memorizing the 4-H Pledge: “I 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, my country and my world.”

Kathleen Bohde of Noblesville, the 4-H Youth Development Extension Educator of 14 years for Hamilton County Purdue Extension Service, is one of those with a 4-H background.

She was a 10-year 4-H’er in Franklin County near Brookville and loved 4-H so much as a youth that she grew up and became a 4-H educator. 

“If you have a passion for something, I have a project I can match your passion to, and that’s what I love about 4-H,” Bohde said.

Her parents used 4-H to better herself in this world. “It’s another way to learn life skills, to learn time management, decision making and exploring of future career-development opportunities,” Bohde said. “Join 4-H. We’re the best-kept secret.”

To join 4-H or re-enroll in the program by Tuesday deadline, contact the Extension Office at (317) 776-0854, stop by the office at 2003 East Pleasant St., Noblesville, or enroll in 4-H at https://in.4honline.com. The 4-H program is also seeking adult volunteers. This year’s Hamilton County 4-H Fair is July 18-22.

-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com. Betsy is a nine-year 4-H’er from Henry County.