Friday, July 15, 2016

4-H Free Fair

Museum Musing for Week of July 15th

This week’s mussing will be welcoming in the 2016 Geary County Free Fair by remembering Paul Gwin.  Through the writings of Josephine Munson printed in the book “They Made the Best Better,” a history of the Extension program in Geary County we will look back at the 4-H and Mr. Gwin’s belief that youth learned by doing.
“Josephine Munson remembered how Paul Gwin emphasized the training that would enable his 4-H young people to learn and know how to use parliamentary procedure.  “They were taught how to conduct a meeting, to speak before a large crowd, to work with each other and to be able to accomplish any job that needed to be done.  They learned by doing. He had a way of recognizing the potential in people, particularly youth, and then helping them to reach that potential.  Many of the leaders of the community since that time have been former 4-H members who learned leadership skills through working with Mr. Gwin”.
            “During Mr. Gwin’s tenure as Geary County Extension Agent there never was a “4-H Agent” to assist him in his work.  He attended most of the community club meetings, often led the recreation, and was available to help in every way.  Judging teams were important promotion tools, and he led his county livestock judging teams to state championships for five different years, and two teams went on the win national and international honors in 1942 and 1955”.
            “His county poultry teams won state championships seven different years.  Forty-five members won trips to the National 4-H Congress in Chicago, and seven Geary County 4-H’ers were selected to attend the National 4-H Club Leadership Encampment in Washington, D.C.
            “The International Farm Youth Exchange was started after World War II.  A number of Geary County young people have participated in this program, with the first one going to Germany.  In exchange, many from foreign countries have been hosted on Geary County farms, thus spreading good will and friendship between the nations of the world”.
            “During his many years as county agent, Paul Gwin worked closely with the County Commission and the Junction City Chamber of Commerce as they provided funds and special incentives for the 4-H programs.  A big picnic was held each summer for county residents to thank the local people for their interest and support.  With as many as 2,000 guests attending, the 4-H’ers took charge of the serving the meal and program that always followed.  Through the years, Gwin liked to remind this audience, “I have worked with over 1,700 4-H’ers over the years. Why, half the counties are my kids!” 
            “When it came time for Paul Gwin to retire in 1956, the farm families of Geary County made it one of the biggest events of the year in Junction City.  Appropriately, one of his first     4-H’ers, Marvin Polland, who then headed the County Extension Council, presided over the ceremonies that were held in front of a large crowd gathered in Junction City’s Rathert Stadium”. 
            Polland recalls, “We had plans underway for practically the whole year prior.  We wanted to do something really special for him.  We got the idea that if we could get enough donations we could buy him a new car.  You see, he had always used a county car before then, so this would be his first family car.  We were successful and were able to buy a brand new four-door 1956 Chevrolet, the best model we could get, and presented it to him at the close of the 4-H fair.”
            According to the account printed in the book “They Made the Best Better,” a history of the Extension program in Geary County,  first Marvin Polland presented the Paul and his wife with a memo book containing pictures and letters from hundreds of former 4-H members by then  scattered into all parts of the world.  Then after a talk by the Director of Extension at K-State the car was driven in to the stadium and Marvin presented the car keys to a totally surprised Mr. Gwin.
Please go out and support these young men and women who work hard within our community through the 4-H. There will be something for everyone; the Rodeo, Baking contests, a Barn Quilt contest as well as carriage rides and inflatable amusements and too many exhibits to list here.  The 2016 Geary County Free Fair & Rodeo has Pre-Fair events July-14th-16th, the Rodeo runs from July 15th-16th, and the Fair dates are from July 18th-21st.  The Geary County Historical Society will have a booth at the Fair on Thursday July 21st.  We hope you will stop by and visit.

The photo is courtesy of the Geary County Historical Society.