JOHN DAY - In 1902, the 4-H program started in Ohio. In 1925, the program took root in Grant County.
A youth program that is a century old nationwide and 77 years old in Grant County doesn't even begin to show its age.
This year, the 4-H program in Grant County showed a resurgence of participation as the community embraced improvements at the Grant County Fairgrounds.
"The kids are getting involved," said Grant County Extension agent Elaine Husted at the midpoint of the Aug. 6-11 fair. "I'm seeing fourth-generation members" participating at the fair, she said.
Part of the reason could be improved facilities. The Grant County Family Heritage Foundation raised enough money, all but $100,000 of it private, to construction of a new Heritage Building.
The building provided an uplift to this year's fair events. Husted said she noticed increased participation from fourth- through seventh-grade 4-H members. Small-animal entries and horticultural exhibits were up. Outdoor cooking, shooting sports and other competition areas expanded the range of interests.
At the Oregon State Fair, held in Salem Aug. 22-Sept. 2, 4-H will display old photos and old exhibits from past members in their respective departments to celebrate the program's 100th birthday. In Grant County, 4-H dates back 77 years.
"As best as I could tell from our records, our first Extension agent came in 1925, and his name was C.R. Richards," Husted said.
Today, the 4-H program and other participants in the fair can enjoy the Heritage Building. A line of FFA and 4-H youth christened its use at an Aug. 8 ceremony, which included a presentation of colors, recitation of the 4-H Pledge and FFA Creed and recitation of fair history by rancher Jack Southworth.
Arlene Oliver, president of the foundation, passed a symbolic pitchfork to Grant County Fair Board Chairman Sharon Livingston, marking the transfer of the building from the foundation to the fair board. The pitchfork, a symbol of agriculture, also was a light-hearted representation of the prodding that was required to see the building completed. Oliver, who received a standing ovation at the ceremony, acknowledged that she made her share of site visits to assure that the building was erected in time for fair.
Oliver joked, "I have a bumper sticker that says, 'My other car is a broom,' and I often came down here in my other car."
Livingston wrote in her introduction to the ceremony program: "The generosity of people from all over has contributed to what we have here today, and we commend each and every one for their part in this success. We sincerely hope you enjoy sharing with us and the youth involved in agriculture our good fortune in being able today to recognize a major step towards the fulfillment of our dream."
More than 200 sponsors of the Heritage Building are listed on the ceremony program.