Cloverbuds become 4H seedlings

The first seeds of 4H are planted with Cloverbuds – children aged 5 to 8 – and this year they will have a unique chance to take a three day “Horses, Goats and Cows, Oh My!” themed camp during the 100th anniversary of the Shenandoah County Fair.

“With school starting early, it cramped our time to offer camps during the summer,” said Susan St. Amand, 4H program assistant for the Virginia Cooperative extension in the county. “But with the kids out of school, it gave us an opportunity to hold a camp during the fair.”

Normally summer day camps are held in town parks for the day, enjoying a picnic, using the pool in the afternoon and engaging in games and activities.

The camp limit is 20 kids and they will get a sneak peek “behind the scenes” about what it takes to show and exhibit items at the fair, learn about the fun activities the fair offers, visit animals in the livestock barns, enjoy crafts and other games.

Cloverbuds often morph into active 4H members and the Binebrink family of Strasburg has 4H DNA going back three generations.

Mark Binebrink, 54, a delivery driver for Sysco foods, was a Cloverbud more than 47 years ago and his parents raised animals with 4H. Now his son Nicholas, the youngest of three children  –  all of whom have become involved with 4H – will show goats and rabbits for the third time at this year’s fair.

Nicholas, 11, first went to Cloverbud camp at age 5 and “When I started I wasn’t sure what it was going to be about but as it progressed and I got more involved, it got me really excited,” he said.

A sixth grader at Strasburg’s Signal Knob Middle School, Nicholas said his father got him involved with showing goats “and it’s still fun to mess around with goats and rabbits and getting them trained to walk,” he said after showing in the last two fairs.

This year’s camp – $35 for the three days – will have a “lot of hands-on,” said St. Amand, 54, who has been teaching Cloverbud camps for the last six years.

“Each day they will visit a different component of the fair and participate in different activities,” she said. “For example, on Monday morning they will go down to the exhibit buildings and learn about horticulture and crafts and talk to master gardeners about plants and vegetable and what judges look for.”

At the Poultry Building they will see small animals like rabbits, learn about rabbit care and if they were to bring a rabbit to the fair what judges would look for.

On Tuesday the focus will be on horses used in harness racing and on the third day a visit to the livestock barns will include senior 4Hers who are showing at the fair to talk about what it takes to raise an animal and take it to the fair to be judged.

“It helps the seniors with their communications skills and community service,” said St. Amand. “They are probably the cream of the crop with experience and knowledge because they have been doing it awhile. They can entice the kids to join 4H and eventually show an animal at the fair.”

“That’s kind of the reason we do these,” St. Amand said. “Capture their interest while they are young, sign them up and get them involved. We usually get one or two. It’s really impressive to see them later with communication skills and leadership.”

St. Amand said the camp attendees will do crafts related to animals, cows and chickens, like pasting popsicle sticks on cutouts to make an animal. At program end, everyone will get a free T-shirt courtesy of the County Parks and Recreation Department.