Wednesday, June 26, 2002


4-H Kids Prepare for Fair

4-H organizers to celebrate 100 years

by Christina Eberhard

Brent Connor, 13, leads his 1,100 pound steer, Ears, firmly and assertively by his halter, commanding him to walk.
"Come on," he urges, using an authoritative voice. With some luck, Ears may go on to win a ribbon at next week's Winona County Fair, or may even advance to the state fair.
Although Brent is a city boy who lives in Winona, he leases his steer and a heifer with sister, Kelly, 10, from the farm of Steve and Becky Verthien, Altura.
"Every day, I walk him, wash him and clean his stall," said Brent, a 4-H member for four years. "I like showing the animals. It's exciting when they do good."
Other young 4-H members across Winona County like Brent and Kelly are currently busy grooming and training their animals for the fair, scheduled for July 3 to 7 at the fairgrounds in St. Charles. This year's fair marks the 100th anniversary of 4-H in Winona County.
"The competition is pretty fierce," said Brian Connor, Brent and Kelly's father, with about 225 dairy cows and steers competing this year.
Kelly describes her heifer, Jade, as "stubborn. Sometimes she doesn't want to walk."
As Brian demonstrates, leading Jade, the calf jerks away and bucks.
"But by the time the fair comes, she could be the most docile one," said Brian. "That's happened before."
For the past two weeks, Brent, Kelly and Brian have come to the farm every day for two to three hours to train the animals, which will be judged upon showmanship, cleanliness and trimming. All those hours of preparation culminate in what turns out to be just a few minutes of presentation before the judges.
"It takes about fifteen minutes for the first round for all animals in the category," said Brian.
After four years of competing, Brent is accustomed to fair judging and has honed his skills.
"Brent has done well in the past and taken pointers that will hopefully benefit him this year," said Brian.
Blue ribbons aside, the experience of 4-H is unmatchable, believes Brian.
"The kids take a lot of pride in their projects and you see that. They enjoy it and learn so much. You can read about it in books, but until you work with these animals you don't really know what it's like," he said.
While Brent's ultimate goal is to bring his steer to the state fair and meet other 4-Hers from around Minnesota, he says he doesn't mind the daily trips to the farm, even though it's hard work.
"It's pretty fun out here. Otherwise if you're home, you're on the computer or watching TV," said Brent.
Working with one animal for so many weeks, attachment is inevitable.
"They're like pets away from home," explained Brent.
"Once these animals get to know you, they will come up to you and want to be petted. That's how tame they are," said Brian.
The Connors first became involved with 4-H four years ago when they learned of the newly-formed Winona River City 4H Club from their neighbor, Ann Lubinski, key leader.
Ann's daughters, Maggie, 14, and Jordan, 12, will compete with seven dairy steers they purchased from funds raised through the 4-H auction and two mini-lops rabbits. The Lubinskis' steers also live at the Verthien farm.
"We go there every day, sometimes twice a day," said Maggie, who won at the state fair last year with a dairy steer. "Taking care of the animals keeps us busy. It's a lot of hard work but a lot of fun."
Maggie's steer is James, weighing in at 1,198 pounds. Her two-year-old rabbits, raised at home in Winona, are named Snicker and Skipper.
"Meeting new people," is Maggie's favorite part of her involvement in 4-H. She also cites "getting away from all the noise in the city," as a good reason to visit her animals.
Jordan, who is eligible for state fair competition for the first time this year as she enters seventh grade, said she enjoys going to the state fair to "see a lot of people from around Minnesota."
Her red steer, Rusty, and one-horned steer, Dalton, will compete, as will a calf named Sadie.
Jordan's only regret about 4-H, she says, is "I wish I would have joined 4-H earlier."
The girls' mother, Ann, said 4-H provides quality family time and teaches kids self-confidence.
"It's the time you spend together as a family," she said. "It's a time we can talk without interruptions. Families don't have that much anymore. You learn from each other. And they learn leadership skills. The older kids help out the younger kids. I think they've become better citizens by being involved in community projects. When I see them up there showing their animals, it makes me proud."
Even though these kids don't live on a farm, their enthusiasm for the animals is apparent.
"I think the farm families are surprised at how eager and willing they are to do things like shovel manure," said Ann.
Whether they live on a farm or in the city, 4-H kids will come together the first week of July to compete, laugh, talk and get to know each other as they share their animals with the community.
Both the Connors and Lubinskis said their participation in 4-H would not be possible without the generosity of the Verthien family, to whom they extend a heartfelt thanks.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of 4-H, special centennial 4-H displays will be shown in the center of the fair's 4-H building, said Janet Beyer, 4-H program extension educator. A guest book for current and past 4-H members to sign will be available, and alumni 4-H members may pick up a centennial ribbon.

Winona native to perform Christian pop, adult contemporary at Bub's and Rascal's next week

by Christina Eberhard

Two performances by Christian pop vocalist Tom Hipps in Winona next week will be a sort of homecoming for the seasoned artist, who may be known from his 1980s band RITZ.
Hipps, 40, who now lives in Minneapolis, was raised in Winona. His 1980 single, "Face to Face" can still be found on some Winona jukeboxes.
"That was a long time ago," said Hipps. "We were really young then."
The young man who joined the band at 15 and spent seven years performing and touring now performs regularly at an alternative Christian church called The Rock in Minneapolis.
"We mix secular music, stuff like U2 and Linkin Park, in with Christian rock for twenty-something singles," said Hipps.
His two shows in Winona, an 8:00 p.m. show at Bub's Brewing Company, 65 East Fourth Street, on June 29 and a 9:00 p.m. show at Rascal's, 151 East Third Street, on July 3, will feature blues, rock, pop and country tunes.
"We'll do cover tunes of Eric Clapton, the Beatles, Paul Simon and James Taylor, and some originals," said Hipps. "We'll also do requests of anything we can pick up on. We also like to invite guests up on stage."
The performance will be "very unplanned. We pick and choose from a list and go however the night takes us," he said.
Hipps, a Minneapolis property manager, has recently completed his first solo CD, "...Everybody and Their Brother," produced by Michael Nelson. Hipps also collaborated with Nelson in 2001 to record as one of four vocalists on a Christmas CD, "Praise Worship Christmas," which was sold in Target stores nationwide. The CD sold 32,000 copies.
His most current CD has a Christian flavor, he said.
"The common theme is searching for, finding and having a relationship with God," said Hipps. All the songs on the CD were written by Hipps or co-written with Winona native Gordy Overing, former drummer of RITZ.
The CD can be purchased at Hardt's Music and Good Vibrations in Winona and in several Twin Cities record stores.
Hipps, who plays acoustic guitar and keyboards, describes his music as "a passion and a way of life. I've had different jobs in my life, but I always come back to music."
He is currently busy forming a band to take on the road to promote the new CD, which he hopes to have together by next month.
Being in the music business for 25 years, Hipps said at one time he envisioned himself "settling down" at age 30, which then changed to age 40.
"Now that I am forty, it feels like things are actually getting rolling," he said. Getting married, having kids and buying a house are still things he plans on doing someday.
But for now, a full-time job, playing at his church, holding Bible study and promoting the new CD keeps him quite busy.
This summer, Hipps will continue to tour. He looks forward to visiting Winona, his hometown, next week.

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