REPUBLICAN Sen. Larry Pressler of South Dakota reminisces:
Four-H meant a great deal to me in growing up -- in fact, outside of school and the home, it was probably the most important formative experience I had. Over a seven- or eight-year period, from about 1956 to 1963, I was active in the Humboldt, S.D., 4-H Club and took livestock to the county and state fairs. Toward the end of that time, in 1963, the national 4-H organization chose me to go to Egypt to an international agricultural fair and to report to President Kennedy in the White House.
Each year there would be a three-day Minnehaha County Fair in Sioux Falls, where I would show swine or livestock products. If an exhibitor won a blue or purple ribbon, he or she could go on to compete in the South Dakota State Fair in Huron, 125 miles from the farm home near Humboldt where I grew up.
Four-H was the main social club for farm youngsters in those days. Aside from school and church, it was the main activity. We would work on our projects, raising a calf or a litter of pigs. When time came for the state fair, it was as exciting as a holiday or a vacation, although we still had to work hard to get the livestock ready to show.
At the state fair, the 4-H Club members would stay in a huge dormitory, which is still standing on the Huron fairgrounds. We would be busy during the day exhibiting our livestock and caring for it, but there were social activities, too. There was usually a dance or some entertainment at night. In fact, there was a song we used to sing: "I've Got That State Fair Feeling Deep in My Heart." It was great fun, an annual ritual.
I'll be at the state fair again this year, visiting with the 4-H'ers. This will be the same state fair I have gone to now since 1957, which is quite a few years. I will be watching some of the 4-H judging, and I'll see many people I've known for years at the 4-H barbeque on Friday night.
I've kept going to the state fair as a politician, but it is not nearly as much fun as it was when I was one of the 4-H'ers. Through grade school, high school and the first two years of college, State Fair Week was a high point of the year.