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BELTRAMI COUNTY FAIR: Dedicated to 4-H; 4-H youth ambassadors are role models all year

(From left) Beltrami County 4-H Ambassadors Taylor Fankhanel and Kylie St. Peter, 4-H Ambassador Advisor Jenna Claypool, Ambassadors Maddie Nelson and Toni Long, and dog show exhibitor Faith Papp-Richards with her yellow Labrador, Hope, discuss plans for the Beltrami County Fair this week. Not pictured are 4-H Ambassadors Daniel Schnackenberg, Olivia Sewall, Erica Winters, Alyssa Koebke, Sarah Bofferding, Elle Sherman, Ryan Speck, Mariah Parks and Cade Haiby. Molly Miron | Special to the Pioneer1 / 2
Tuesday marked the opening day of judging for the Beltrami County Fair. Members of the Battle River Beavers bagged vegetable snacks Tuesday for fellow 4-H members to eat throughout the week. (From left) Chloe Cook, 9, Riley Dreher, 11, Kenna Cook, 10, Evan Waldo, 9 and Keala Schroeder, 14, work in the assembly line fashion to fill the bags. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer 2 / 2

BEMIDJI -- The 13 Beltrami County 4-H Ambassadors embrace their leadership responsibilities to support the annual county fair activities this week.

But their work continues with their local clubs throughout the year.

"We help out with livestock shows. We hand out programs, give the champions their ribbons and take pictures," said Ambassador Toni Long, 13, of Blackduck and a member of the Nebish Northstars 4-H Club.

"We do a little bit of everything, and we do it all year round," said Taylor Fankhanel, 15, of Bemidji and a Buena Vista Bear Tracks member. "We all work as leaders."

"I was an ambassador when I was their age," said advisor Jenna Claypool. "I kind of just oversee it because this is a leadership organization. They primarily lead it. All 4-Hers are dedicated, but these are extra, extra dedicated."

Claypool had been living out-of-state for a few years, but was pleased to be asked to be the adult volunteer ambassador advisor when she returned to Minnesota this spring. "I missed Minnesota a lot, so I'm really happy to be back."

The fair starts today and runs through Sunday, with static exhibits such as home arts and horticulture, livestock shows and judging and dog obedience and showmanship classes. Grandstand events range from draft horse and pony pulls to motocross, Triple B Rodeo and lawnmower races. Music and talent performances will be held daily on the Marilyn Shutter Country Stage.

Of the approximately 500 Beltrami County 4-H members, 240 have registered with projects at the county fair, said Ann Marie Ward, Beltrami County program director. But, traditionally, entire families take part as leaders and mentors as well as young participants.

The opportunities for projects are almost endless. For example, Ambassador Maddie Nelson, 15, of Bemidji and the Bear Tracks Club, will show her cat, Pepper, home arts and flower arranging. Long said she will only show static entries such as her curtains and health projects.

Ambassador Kylie St. Peter, 17, of Bemidji and the Deer Lake Flyers Club, will perform violin on stage and show chickens and sheep. Faith Papp-Richards, 15, of Bemidji and the Open Range Ropers Club, will show her yellow Lab, Hope, in obedience. And Fankhanel will continue her series of scientific research projects, this year on neurochemical communication.

"Our greatest area of growth has been first-time 4-H members," Ward said. "In 4-H, the primary focus is youth development."

Although Ward said many 4-Hers are new members, plenty of families count generations of 4-H and fair involvement. For example, she said the Fenske family has been represented with exhibits at the fair since 1918. The event schedule cover art features a 1926 photo of Ed Fenske showing his heifer calf. Claypool said her family members are also longtime participants.

"I'm a third-generation 4-Her," she said. "My siblings have children, so they're fourth generation." She said fair time for the family is "bigger than Christmas. It's a family reunion." Three of her five siblings live in Utah, New Jersey and Florida, and, although they don't all make it home for Christmas, she said they surely all count on visiting for the Beltrami County Fair.