Mississippi 4-H’ers from 42 counties put their talent on display at 4-H Day at the Mississippi State Fair on Oct. 13.

Exhibits by 4-H members totaled 1,225 this year, said Larry Alexander, 4-H youth development specialist with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service.

“This is a way for our youth to display the work they have done throughout the year in their counties,” Alexander said. “They put a lot of effort into their project areas during the year, and those who place in their local contests have their projects and exhibits judged at the state fair.”

Displays and exhibit categories include health and safety, creative arts, natural resources, agri-business, clover kids, horticulture, fashion design and kids in the kitchen. 4-H Leadership Team members manned booths for hands-on science experiments, and robotics team members showed off their self-engineered robots.

Members who either made or selected clothing as a project participated in fashion show. A public speaking competition was held off site at the Cattlemen’s Association building. Livestock shows of meat goats, dairy goats, sheep, beef cows, dairy cows and swine went on throughout the day.

Alexander said state fair events are exciting for 4-H members and their parents, but the hands-on learning and companionship are what keep members interested.

“I really enjoy being in 4-H because I like to get out and meet new people and do new things. If I were not in 4-H, I would not get to do these things,” said 11-year-old Galin Burton, who has been a member of DeSoto County 4-H for five years. “This year, I’ve got exhibits in the 4-H Village, and I’m participating in the fashion revue.”

Her mom, Carol Burton, said 4-H has proven to be a great venue for learning and socialization.

“Being involved in 4-H gives Galin the ability to explore things other than what she gets to experience at school and at home and to meet new people,” Carol Burton said. “I serve as an adult volunteer, so I’m able to participate in activities alongside her. We have friends all over the state now. 4-H broadens both our outlooks and is an enjoyable activity for both of us.”

Perhaps best known for its livestock program, 4-H has added other programs as lifestyles have changed and technology has advanced.

“All of our programs are tried and tested with research-based methods, and they do work,” Alexander said. “We’ve recently added the science, engineering and technology program, or S.E.T., because many of our young people in the state are performing below the national average in science and math. We want to try and implement programs that will foster an interest in and help strengthen those skills.”

In addition to S.E.T., 4-H focuses on healthy living and citizenship.

More than 110 years since the organization’s inception, 4-H has served more than 6.5 million people in the United States.

“4-H has something for everyone, and it is constantly evolving and advancing. That is a large part of its appeal,” Alexander said. “The program also is very accessible because it is in every county in the state.”

Paula Threadgill, interim state 4-H program leader, said the 4-H Leadership Team gives youth an invaluable opportunity to develop their skills.

“The youth who are members of the leadership team get more of an opportunity to develop their communication skills because they assist with all of our state programs, including Club Congress and Project Achievement Day,” Threadgill said. “They also have the opportunity to attend our national conference in Washington, D.C., where they serve on teams to solve political, health or civic issues that parallel real issues.

“We have great youth, and 4-H provides a way for them to grow into productive citizens.”