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Club members look forward to in-person participation

With restrictions lifted earlier this year in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, clubs are preparing to host in-person events.
Rayna Gleich, of the 4-H beef club in Lundar, Man., exhibits the club’s champion steer last year.

KENNEDY, Sask. — Agricultural 4-H clubs across the Prairies are looking forward to participating in person this summer.

The Lundar, Man., and Kennedy, Sask.,4-H beef clubs had to adapt quickly as the pandemic shut down their operations in 2020.

“During COVID, it kind of sucked,” said recent Lundar 4-H graduate Rayna Gleich. “It wasn’t very fun not being able to see everybody…. I really enjoyed showing in-person over taking a video and showing that way.”

With restrictions lifted earlier this year in both provinces, the clubs are preparing to host the in-person events they recently had to cancel or manage virtually. Lundar 4-H beef club leader Cynthia Wirgau feels relieved things are getting back to normal.

“We just recently held the North Interlake show prep day, and we had 26 members show up,” said Wirgau. “It was really good to see kids interacting and laughing…. I think they’re pretty excited to be back in person again. You can just accomplish so much more in person.”

Masking mandates, social distancing and crowd-capacity limitations were the biggest COVID restrictions that affected the clubs, leading to cancelled or virtual shows.

“There’s been some (in-person) shows already and I think there’s been more kids attending just because they’re able to do things again,” said Kennedy 4-H beef club leader Jill Debenham. “You work with a calf for a whole year and you don’t get to show it anywhere, that’s pretty disheartening.”

Throughout the summer of 2020, both clubs had to cancel events to meet government restrictions and keep members safe while trying to accomplish their goals.

“In 4-H, you do a lot of learning from other people and their experiences,” said Gleich. “It was harder to share everyone’s stories through the computer…. I think we still got our goals finished by the end of the year but it was a lot more challenging.”

“That year, we had to cancel our Jackpot show we have every year in Kennedy,” said Debenham. “We had to cancel our in-person achievement day, our in-person regional show and sale….

“We ended up having a virtual show for the regional show, but the kids just had to sell their steers on their own because we never had a sale.”

Lundar 4-H managed to hold an auction for its members through an online timed event, a strategy it plans to use again this year.

“We were concerned in the spring that if restrictions like masks and crowd limits were to come back, it’s pretty hard to plan it online if we’re given like only a week notice,” said Wirgau. “So, we thought we’d go this way and buyers, some of them really liked it… we’re hoping this one goes over just as well, if not better.”

Wirgau said one of the biggest challenges was the technology itself. Both parents and children learning how to use it, coupled with slow rural internet speeds, made it difficult.

“Nobody was interested in a virtual show,” said Wirgau. “The fall of 2020, we had a meeting and decided to use Zoom for the remainder… and almost all members, I’d say maybe 80 percent of them proceeded with it.”

4-H is a hands-on program, so online meetings and shows proved to be a challenge. Debenham said the idea of doing 4-H online was daunting and even discouraged some of the members.

“They didn’t know if they wanted to be in 4-H if it wasn’t going to be the same as it was at the end of the year before,” she said. “It’s obviously not as fun if you can’t do things in person.”



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