State 4-H Roundup has developed many traditions over nearly a century, but this year’s event – a celebration of its 99th anniversary – was anything but traditional.
For years, Oklahoma 4-H’ers have gathered on the Oklahoma State University campus, participated in spirit contests and hands-on learning opportunities, made new friends and walked across the stage in Gallagher-Iba Arena to collect well-deserved awards. Youth still participated in contests this year, held campaign rallies and were recognized as record book and scholarship winners, but the event was all done virtually, even the Honors Night Assembly July 22.
“I want to hand it to our Roundup committee of state specialists, county educators and 4-H youth who all worked hard to come up with ways to create a fun and engaging environment where youth could learn, compete, demonstrate leadership and build friendships,” said Steve Beck, state 4-H program leader for OSU Extension. “I have been very impressed with their ingenuity and determination.”
Tradition broke in another way as well: Instead of the usual three-day event, Roundup contests and activities took place throughout most of July, which allowed delegates to take part in more events than previous years. Despite the different format this year, Grady County 4-H’er Sage Payne had a good time.
“I like that I could participate in more activities than a normal Roundup,” said Payne, who competed in contests involving all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety, natural resources and hippology, the study of horses. Payne also took part in two workshops and taught another workshop.
Gallagher-Iba Arena on the OSU campus typically is a rowdy venue as 4-H’ers take part in the Honors Night Assembly, the culmination of Roundup. This year the site was silent as club members participated from their home counties. However, their achievements were still recognized, leading up to the highlight of the event: the announcement of two inductees into the Oklahoma 4-H Hall of Fame. This year’s inductees were Tori Booker of Jackson County and Erin Slagell of Custer County. Each received a $5,000 scholarship sponsored by Oklahoma Ag Credit. In addition, state record book and scholarship winners also were announced. Oklahoma 4-H’ers collected educational scholarships worth more than $100,000 from generous donors.
Being off campus was not an issue for county clubs across the state, who still found a way to celebrate together during the Honors Night Assembly as they practiced social distancing and followed other safety precautions.
For example, Liz Taylor, 4-H youth development educator in Grady County, said her club members participated with a family style Honors Night Watch Party.
“Each family had their own table with drinks, salad, pizza and dessert,” Taylor said. “While most of my club members would have preferred a face-to-face Roundup, they understand it wasn’t possible. However, with this virtual format, I really like that my kids could participate in multiple contests and activities. I hope we’re able to use some of these new methods from this year in conjunction with a face-to-face Roundup.”
Pittsburg County 4-H’ers also participated in a watch part during the Honors Night Assembly.
“Yes, this year has been different, but as far as feedback from my 4-H’ers, they were thankful Roundup still took place,” said Greg Owen, 4-H youth development educator in Pittsburg County. “We did have a few technical difficulties, but overall, I thought the Roundup committee structure and teen leadership development from state and district officers was exceptional. And finally, I learned a great deal more in the area of technology and the challenges and opportunities that are available to us as Extension educators, our youth and volunteers. I appreciate everyone’s hard work to pull off an event of this magnitude.”
Honors Night also is a time to recognize former club members, as well as those who support 4-H. Susan Murray, a former 4-H’er and retired OSU Extension educator, was recognized as the Outstanding 4-H Alumni Award recipient. The Partner in 4-H Award went to the Masonic Foundation of Oklahoma.
Another tradition of State 4-H Roundup is the election of the new state council. The new board of officers for the 2020-2021 year include: Hunter Haxton, president, McClain County; Lilyana Sestak, vice president, Lincoln County; Ethan Haggard, secretary, Garfield County; Mia Mitchell, reporter, Oklahoma County; and Elizabeth Chambers, recreation leader, Osage County. West District representatives include Bailey Hatfield, Custer County; Rachel Mitchell, Tillman County; and Madison Nickels, Garfield County. Northeast District representatives are Carolyn Greenfield, Payne County; Jared Stone, Lincoln County; and Elizabeth Tate, Pawnee County. Southeast District representatives include Delaney Cruzan, Cleveland County; Brayden Ingle, Hughes County; and Keona Mason, Johnston County.
The Change for Change campaign, which benefits the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital Foundation, raised $15,509.78, although activities that normally raise money were canceled in the last four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Youth also collected more than 1,300 pounds of pop tabs, which netted $607.62 for a donation to the Ronald McDonald House.
Jeff Sallee, professor with the Oklahoma 4-H STEM program in the State 4-H Office, said this year’s State 4-H Roundup definitely has been a learning experience.
“We’re excited to have been able to offer the 99th State 4-H Roundup online, but we do understand the disappointment of not being able to meet in person,” Sallee said. “However, this experience has proven to be a learning opportunity about how we can incorporate emerging technologies into a 100-year-old program.”
Beck said this year’s Roundup was a great event and everyone is looking forward to celebrating the centennial Roundup next year. The event formally concluded early July 23.
“While we fully plan to participate in person next year, we’ve learned a lot and probably will keep some aspects in a blended virtual/face-to-face environment,” Beck said.