By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Tammi Wilczek, a key leader for the Ripley Fireballs 4-H Club, has taken it upon herself to create a history of 4-H at the Morrison County Fair. Her display will be available for everyone to see during the Fair, which begins Thursday.
Wilczek was born and raised in Huron, S.D., the site of the South Dakota State Fair.
“My parents ran a food stand during the fair each year, so I spent many days there. I loved the fair.”
In 1973, Wilczek joined 4-H. Her husband Joel and her five children, Maggi, Ted, Charlie, Frank and Leo, have also been part of 4-H.
When talking to local people in her current capacity with 4-H, she has learned that many of them have never been to the Morrison County Fair.
“That’s when I got the idea to do the history of the fair and display my findings in the 4-H building,” she said. She also challenged the local 4-H clubs to write their own history and display it with hers.
In Wilczek’s research, she has found many clubs which have come and gone, too many to count.
She found a newspaper account of the 1910 court case splitting the fair between Motley and Little Falls. She found information on the fair when it was within the Little Falls city limits (1913-1991) on Fourth Street Southeast, across from St. Otto’s Care Center. She also has records of when the poultry barn burned in 1981.
“I have the original welcome signs from that site and will display them at this year’s fair,” said Wilczek.
She has been spending time at the University of Minnesota Extension Office at the Morrison County Government Center, looking through records of the past and present clubs.
“I learned that both Todd and Douglas counties had the first 4-H clubs in the state. That was in 1902,” she said.
Originally, Extension agents took care of and led the 4-H clubs in each county. The men handled the livestock and worked with the boys in the club, while home economists worked with the girls.
“But I found that in 1950, the first girl, Jean Haight of Morrison County, was part of the hog judging team for the National Barrow Show in Austin. She was the only girl 4-H member to attend the event,” said Wilczek.
“I found that Jimmy Carter, Jacqueline Kennedy, Walter Mondale, Faith Hill, Orville Redenbacher and many more famous people were part of 4-H when growing up,” said Wilczek.
Her plans for the history project include interviews with area residents who were involved in 4-H in the 1950s and 1960s.
Wilczek said she wants kids to know the opportunities that 4-H can give them.
“The projects are endless,” she said. “Even though numbers are declining, 4-H is still a huge part of the county.”
4-H is not just raising farm animals or sewing. It has grown to include computer science and robotics. There are visual and performing arts, too, along with crafts and more.
“I want to see the kids expand their projects and get involved in more,” she said.
To learn more history of 4-H in Morrison County, check out Wilczek’s display in the 4-H building at the Morrison County Fair.