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4-H clover Taking on the Minnesota State Fair, one encampment at a time

Minnesota 4-H, a youth development program administered by University of Minnesota Extension, reaches over 40,000 youth across the state. Young people have the opportunity to take part in countless activities at the club, county or regional level, and many share the goal of showcasing their hard work and involvement at the state level.

4-H has an impressive role at the Minnesota State Fair. Animals, performances, general projects and more have designated encampments to ensure the program can accommodate the thousands of 4-H'ers who exhibit their talents each year at the state fair.

Emily, 4-H state ambassador from Carlton County

"The Minnesota State Fair brings together 4-H projects from across the state that are the best of the best," says Emily, a current Minnesota 4-H State Ambassador from Carlton County. 

"I love being a part of each encampment and getting to meet 4-H'ers with a wide range of interests and see them showcase their projects and knowledge." 

A busy time for 4-H'ers happens during the livestock encampment, which takes place during the first four days of the fair and welcomes over 2,500 exhibitors and their animals. This number includes over 60 llama and alpaca exhibitors that reach thousands of fairgoers at different events, one of which is the popular llama/alpaca costume contest. 

To exhibit an animal during the Minnesota State Fair, each 4-H'er must first earn a trip at the county level. 

Katelyn, Nicollet County 4-H'er

"It's a big deal just to be here," says Katelyn, a 4-H'er from Nicollet County. "Our county fair can be very competitive, so we usually send really high-quality animals to the state fair for the 4-H shows." 

But, the livestock encampment is not just about the animals– exhibitors are required to participate in the educational livestock interviews. They are also encouraged to participate in Speaking Up for Animal Agriculture, Minnesota Meats contests and livestock judging for their species. 

These fun events are designed to showcase their knowledge and provide educational aspects that exhibitors can take home or use when interacting with fairgoers. 

"The livestock weekend is so much fun for me because I love to show and meet new friends from all over the state," says Katelyn.

The central hub for 4-H at the state fair is the 4-H Building. This building houses the general projects, interactive exhibits and the State Arts-In program throughout the duration of the fair. Like the livestock encampment, 4-H'ers must earn a trip with their general project to compete at the state fair. 

Nathan, 4-H state ambassador from East Otter Tail County

"I brought over 10 different projects to the county fair. They were in a handful of different project areas that ranged from purchased fashion to electricity," said Nathan, a state ambassador from East Otter Tail County. "I was able to choose between a few projects. Since we can only choose one, I chose to bring my purchased fashion project." 

There are almost 2,000 individual projects in the 4-H Building that span 40+ project areas. 

Judging of the projects takes place during the state fair and is done in a conference style where knowledgeable 4-H'ers with high-quality projects have the chance of earning a purple, blue, red or white ribbon. 

Nathan went on to say, "My project will be judged on Wednesday, where I will also take part in the fashion revue. When I'm not preparing for judging, I am doing my state ambassador duties and trying to catch parts of the State Arts-In show."

Jordan, 4-H State Arts-In performer

For 50 years, State Arts-In has performed at the state fair. This 22-day program brings together 4-H performers, musicians, technicians and designers from across the state. 

"We perform up to four times a day, every day of the fair, on the main stage in the 4-H Building," says Jordan, a State Arts-In performer. 

This year, all past alumni were invited to a reception at the state fair. 

"It was so great to talk to alumni of the program, and I hope to come back and see how things have changed when we celebrate 75 years!"

Henry, 4-H state ambassador from Meeker County

"There is no limit to what you can do in 4-H, and there will always be someone there to help you take your passion to the next level." Henry, a state ambassador from Meeker County, goes on to say, "4-H has such a wonderful tradition of excellence at the state fair, and we encourage everyone to come join in on the fun!"

Learn more about 4-H at the Minnesota State Fair.

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