by Lorraine Strenkowski
On July 25-27, the UConn Extension New London County 4-H Fair was held in North Stonington, CT. Dairy, beef and goats were the focus of the event, with an open class for working steers. 4-H Assistant Heidi Rechlin of Norwich, CT, was excited to be on-site during the three-day affair. A recent graduate of SUNY Cobleskill with an associate’s degree in agri-business, Heidi was well-prepared. Together, she and Program Coordinator Pamela Gray, of UConn Extension New London County 4-H, planned a remarkable weekend.
Family camping was available from Friday on, with activities such as a talent show, scarecrow judging and a “Goat Milk-Out”. Saturday proved to be just as busy, with its traditional goat, dairy and beef classes, as well as an open pet show, cupcake decorating contest, hay toss, robotics competition, ice cream sundaes and a family movie in the pavilion.
Heidi is truly dedicated to the 4-H members of New London County. “I volunteer in any way I can to get these kids prepared!” she says. “It’s important for me to see them succeed.”
Heidi’s mother, Sherry Rechlin, grew up farming and showing her own dairy animals, and belonged to the same 4-H program as her daughter. “We make a great team. She’s always willing to help out!” Heidi says of her mother.
Together, the two have visited local farms and families to explain correct showing and fitting techniques to young members. They come fully prepared with equipment, but “it’s hands-on” says Heidi, “we can offer guidance, but the kids have to do it themselves.”
The dairy and beef barn at the fairgrounds strategically overlooked the show ring. With a tree in the very middle, the contestants enjoyed a cool place to compete. The goat barn had been built with an open pavilion area for showing, keeping those animals in comfort as well. The spectator area was shaded and the numbers were impressive, as parents, grandparents, siblings and friends, all dedicated to 4-H, watched with great pride. From toddlers to seniors, it was evident that interest in the rural community was still a top priority.
Showmanship captivated the audience. These young 4-H members were experts at cleaning, clipping and leading their animals. The Junior Showmans were exceptional and didn’t miss a beat. Taking the first place ribbon was Jacob Tarryk (13) with his Jersey. Second went to Michael Wolf (13) with his Holstein, and third went to Owen Duff (14) with his Jersey.
North Stonington’s Butter and Beef 4-H member Mason Perkins (7) will compete for the first time in Showmanship and Breed Classes, with his 3 1/2 month old Belted Galloway/Beef Shorthorn cross.
“I’ve been in 4-H and the fair circuit my whole life,” says Mason’s dad, Court Perkins. “I wanted to get Mason involved as soon as possible, so we had to start with the steers.”
This year’s Working Steer event had three teenage competitors. Kevin McGuillicuddy (13) with his team of Randall Linebacks, was top winner in all classes — showmanship, cart pull and weighted stone drag.
With Heidi Rechlin determined to keep the New London County 4-H packed full of members, she encourages teamwork. “Parents are a huge part of this effort.” she says. “I see them helping and advising all of our members, not just their own.” Along with her assistance to the program coordinator, Heidi spends much of her time promoting UConn Extension New London County 4-H with online networking, such as Facebook. “The kids love to see their names in the paper and their pictures on our website! It all promotes dedication and confidence. I’m proud to be a part of it!”
New London County 4-H Fair
by Lorraine Strenkowski