20 years at the county fair
By BRANDON L
FORT?DODGE – Linda Cline has been Webster County 4-H youth coordinator for 20 years, but this September she is retiring.
That means this week’s Webster County Fair, celebrating the efforts of nearly 300 local 4-H’ers, will be her last.
“By completing this 20th fair and finishing up in September, I’ve completed 20 full years,” Cline said.
Cline has been involved with 4-H her whole life, as a child in 4-H in Carroll County and through college.
“When I came to Fort Dodge and got a job, I remembered going into the Extension office within the first six months and talking to Bruce Wilde, who was the county 4-H person at that time, to see if he had any leader positions available or wanted me to volunteer,” Cline said. “He was shocked and surprised that somebody walked through the door and wanted to be a volunteer. Usually, you have to ask volunteers to help out.”
Cline served as a volunteer for 15 years before the youth coordinator position opened. She was awarded the job in September 1996.
“I’ve enjoyed this position tremendously. I got to take what the history was in Webster County 4-H and continue that and try some new things that the state was directing or trying,” she said. “I’ve totally enjoyed working with the families because those families are part of the 4-H family, and they just intertwine together and care about each other.”
There have been many changes in 4-H during Cline’s 20 years as youth coordinator, including the use of retinal eye imaging for sheep and cattle.
“We never used to do that,” she said. “You just used to tag your animal and that was the ID, so we knew whose animal it was.”
For Cline, each Webster County Fair has been its own success.
“I like stats,” she said. “I like being able to have a successful event and looking back at the numbers and saying, ‘Yay! I had one or two more’ than the year before, and to make sure we always encourage somebody else to do it.”
The credit is not hers alone, though, Cline said.
“The youth committee is an integral part of Webster County 4-H,” she said. “Those adults work with 20 or 30 high school kids on a yearly basis so that other programming can get done, and they help plan things at the fair.”
4-H, though, is more than just the Webster County Fair.
Its youths work throughout the year, and participate in programs, camps, clinics and meetings.
“We just took kids to Washington, D.C. – 29 kids from Webster County for that, and I’ve led that trip 10 times over the last 20 years, where we go every other year,” Cline said. “That means packing them up and getting them on the bus and bringing them back in 10 days.”
Cline also works with the 4-H Foundation to help youths going to college.
“We’ve increased our numbers of scholarships for that,” she said. “We have also raised more funds over the past years, and we can show the board and our donors that it goes to good causes.”
In her 20 years of service, Cline has impacted hundreds of young lives by emboldening them, championing them and fostering opportunities for them.
“It makes me proud to know I’ve helped kids with their communication skills, because maybe now they’re a lawyer and they’ve had the opportunity to go to interviews. I’m proud that those kids, pushing them out of their comfort zone, that they tried something new,” she said. “And maybe they got disappointed because they got a red ribbon, but I encourage them to try next year to see, or maybe they’re disappointed they didn’t go to the State Fair, but realize now they need to improve their exhibit a little bit.”
Most rewarding for Cline has been watching youths from fourth grade to 12th grade grow not only in abilities, but as people.
“I can go throughout those communities, or wherever those 4-H alumni have gone, and know that I was just a little bit of the world that helped shaped them, to get to where they are now,” she said. “It’s just fun to see where they end up in the world.”
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