Montezuma County 4-H students prepare for new year

Dozens gather at fairgrounds as group courts new members amidst uncertainty

Akima Kane holds her hen, Little Bit, during 4-H Day at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds. Enlargephoto

Stephanie Alderton/The Journal

Akima Kane holds her hen, Little Bit, during 4-H Day at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds.

On Saturday, dozens of 4-H families gathered at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds to celebrate their accomplishments over the past year and invite more people to join the program.

For the annual 4-H Day, representatives from Montezuma County’s seven 4-H clubs set up booths in the Indoor Arena and displayed some of their projects from this year, as well as several of the animals they raised through the program.

Some of the program’s leaders handed out membership information to visitors at the arena entrance, hoping to draw more families to participate next year. The Montezuma County Board of Commissioners voted earlier in the week to defund the Colorado State University Extension office, which oversees the program, but 4-H Coordinator Andrea Jeter said she believes it will survive.

“The 4-H program is really strong, and we have a huge group of families that are very 4-H-oriented,” she said. “It’s not going to go away.”

It’s not certain exactly how the decision to defund the Extension office will affect 4-H. Jeter said she expects some changes to the program in 2018, but she pointed out that 4-H has other sources of funding, such as the fees members pay for each project.

About 200 children from Montezuma and Dolores counties participated this year, and Jeter said she expects most of them to return in 2018. For newcomers, open enrollment begins Oct. 16.

Several of the students who displayed projects at 4-H Day expressed their excitement for what the next year would bring. Akima Kane, 12, said she has done cake decorating projects for most of her five years as a 4-H member, but next year, she wants to focus on raising animals. She brought her Rhode Island Red hen, Little Bit, and said she hopes to raise more chicken varieties in 2018.

“Animals are funner because you get to actually take care of them and raise them up,” she said.

The hardest thing about raising chickens, she said, is protecting them from the mountain lions that roam her family’s land outside Mancos. But she said she hopes to raise enough healthy animals next year to place in the county fair.

Other students let guests pet their show rabbits or gave rides to younger children on their horses. Some of the displays from the 2017 projects included bottle rockets, insect collections and handmade clothes from the “Decorate Your Duds” program. On Saturday, the clubs held their annual Achievement Night, in which new officers were inducted and members received awards for achievements throughout the year.

One club leader, Barbara Zeutzius, said the day marked the program’s “beginning all over again.”

Montezuma County’s 4-H clubs include Barnyard Critters, led by Brenda Hindmarsh; Battle Rock, led by Kim Martin; Bunnies and More, led by Zeutzius; Canyon Blazers, led by Melissa Hackett; Hoofbeats 4-H, led by Casey Russell; Kalvin’s Kids, led by Sabrina Elliott; and Roundup, led by Taylor Oliver.

Montezuma or Dolores county residents ages 8 -19 can compete in 4-H projects for fees that start at $25.

A rabbit on display during 4-H Day at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds. Enlargephoto

Stephanie Alderton/The Journal

A rabbit on display during 4-H Day at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds.