My name is Colton Wicks, and this is my ninth year in the 4-H program here in Lake County. This year COVID-19 has changed how 4-H meetings have been conducted, how Achievement Days were handled in Lake County, and how 4-H is being handled at the State Fair in Huron, SD.

COVID-19 has impacted all 4-H youth in our county, state and throughout the nation, but one major educational aspect of 4-H is that it promotes change, and COVID-19 has definitely influenced change for me and the other youth within the program.

Because of the pandemic, communication among clubs was majorly impacted. Starting in February, the normal monthly 4-H club meetings were either canceled or changed to be Zoom meetings from home. Thank goodness that we have technology that allowed us to keep club meetings available, but some of our club goals or service projects were not able to be completed during February through July timeframe.

COVID has caused us to not meet our goals, but it has also allowed us as youth to think outside the box more and to figure out other ways to achieve some of these goals and objectives that we originally had set for this year.

Lake County has a wonderful group of leaders as they figured out a way to keep Achievement Days within the county, but with that, there were adjustments that had to be made.

Achievement Days was scaled down and closed to only those youth showing animals and family members up to 5 individuals. It was hard to see the small crowds of people at Achievement Days because Achievement Days is usually a time of celebration with the community of all the hard work that us youth put forth through the 4-H year.

I am very thankful for our community, though, and finding a way to keep Achievement Days available for us to show our animals. I am also hoping that next year, we have a fuller crowd for the event with not so many restrictions.

Last is the upcoming event of the State Fair, which is Sept. 3-7. This year, the 4-H program has scaled down the number of animals that can be brought to the fair; each 4-H member is allowed to bring 2 animals per species. This regulation has required me to make choices and refine my choices.

Decisions in 4-H can be difficult, but the regulations this year made those decisions even more difficult for me. Hopefully, I made the correct choices on what animals to show at the State Fair this year. I guess I will find out the week of the fair.

Overall, COVID-19 has not been fun for us 4-H members, but I do appreciate the 4-H Extension Educator, the 4-H Leaders and the State 4-H Educators at finding ways to help keep the 4-H program and fairs going in this difficult year!

Even with the unplanned events of COVID-19, I was able to find growth in the many different aspects of 4-H that are offered. I was pushed to think outside the box and have learned to acknowledge change from my past years of the 4-H experience.

Without the continuous efforts of our 4-H leaders and the continuous teaching within the program, we would not have had the opportunity to reach any of our objectives or goals for this 4-H year! Thank you all that have helped us in the 4-H program through this time of COVID-19.

Colton Wicks

Country Swingers 4-H Club

Nunda, Aug. 26