HARRINGTON — For 15-year-old Ainsley West, of Milton, being a 4-H volunteer at the Delaware State Fair after facing such uncertainty last year is beyond thrilling.
“Everybody’s just so excited to finally be back to normal,” she said. “From set-up to clean-up ... you’re always having fun. You meet so many new people all over the state, and it’s just a really great experience to be a part of.”
It has not been a typical year, said Doug Crouse, state program leader of 4-H Youth Development. Despite that, the 4-H program volunteers and organizers were more than prepared to take on the responsibility of helping bring this annual statewide event to life, he said.
“I’m pleasantly surprised and pleased with what we have in our building ... (like) what they’ve been doing with their leaders on the county and state levels, (and) what they’re bringing into the fair is this showcasing of their increased skills and knowledge.”
The majority of the year was spent with little to no in-person contact due to the pandemic. As a result, Mr. Crouse said, entries for the program have gone down — from approximately 9,000 to 10,000 in past years to between 6,000 to 7,000 statewide this year. Still, he has high hopes that the fair will be as enjoyable as it has in years past.
With all that has happened, Mr. Crouse has taken steps to make sure that all 4-H volunteers, both new and old, have the ability to learn and exhibit new skills while helping to bring the 2021 fair to life.
“What I have found ... is that they’re very resilient (and) they have adapted very fast,” he said. “They were willing to do things differently than what they’ve done before, and that’s what I have noticed all through the year.”
Rachel Taylor, 19, former 4-H member and fellow volunteer from Harrington, said the pandemic has been a challenge throughout the year, but her involvement in this year’s fair has allowed her to take on more leadership positions within and beyond the program, including mentoring incoming volunteers.
“(This experience) really got me out of my comfort zone, to be more mature and learn the responsibilities to get involved and try something new each year,” she said. “It’s important to remember that there’s always a brighter side out of a pandemic, and we’ve all worked hard.
“It’ll be a good opportunity for all of us to see each other ... and encourage each other,” she said.