SALEM - Oregon 4-H celebrates 100 years next month, and leaders hope a display at the Oregon State Fair, and a new hall of fame will rekindle an interest from youth around the state.
For more than half of those 100 years, Burt and Betty Udell have had a hand in 4-H. They have seen many changes over the years, but one thing has stayed the same - the fair is an important component to club membership.
The Oregon State Fair opened Aug. 26 and will run through Labor Day, Sept. 6. Beginning at 11 a.m. , the fair will remain open until 10 p.m. during the week and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
The Udells have worked their land for many years. For most of those years they have used their tree farm outside Lebanon to educate young people about forestry.
In 1950 Betty began volunteering with 4-H, starting a chain reaction of involvement that has lasted four generations.
"I had three kids, five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren." said the 84-year-old. "They have all been in 4-H. Some still are. Some are too young I guess, but they will be too."
Everyone she talked to at one time knew what 4-H had to offer. They knew each other because of 4-H. Now folks lead busier lives and aren't as motivated to join, she said.
"Things have changed," she said. "Kids are not as interested as they used to be because of many other activities to choose from nowadays."
Faye Sallee, Betty's daughter, is a 4-H community leader. She oversees all 4-H activities in Linn County.
Over the years 4-H has tried to shift with the times by offering different options for classes, Sallee said. Programs like entomology, computers, choir and international exchange programs have been added to encourage kids to join.
Many families have a similar history of involvement as the Udells, said Jim Rutledge, program leader. Many of the most active families are third- and fourth- generation 4-Hers.
It has been one of the club's goals to attract people unfamiliar with the organization. This means putting more emphasis on families not used to life on the farm. It also means that more programs will be based in high technology like computer education and GPS (Global Positioning System) tracking, Rutledge said.
"It is our challenge to offer life skills training in urban areas," he said. "We want to bridge the gap between urban and rural."
Looking toward the future, 4-H is determined to teach young people about the world around us and what community members can do to protect nature. Government will also play an important role in the years to come, Rutledge said.
"It is important that people have a basic understanding of our natural resources," he said. "Without that understanding, we could end up with damaging public policy."
To celebrate the centennial, a progression of exhibits at the Oregon State Fair will commemorate the past 100 years of 4-H, and a hall of fame will be added to Oregon's 4-H Web site.
Some 100 people who have made significant contributions will be announced at a meeting in Corvallis. One inductee of note is Harry Seymore who became Oregon program leader in 1916 and stayed in the position for 30 years, Rutledge said.