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Making Hay: 4-H’ers Use Hay Bales to Spread Messages of Fun and Learning

With the help of their 4-H agent and volunteer, Mitchell County 4-H'ers decorate hay bales at the State Fair.

What do fidget spinners, wise owls and gumball machines have in common? They are among the symbols young people used at the State Fair this year to spread the 4-H message.

Each year, 4-H’ers from counties across North Carolina take part in a hay bale decorating competition in the grassy area between the Kerr Scott Building and the Education Building. This year, the contest included whimsical entries from 15 counties throughout the state, from Carteret in the east to Mitchell in the west.

[pullquote color=’red’ align=”left”]4-H teaches you life skills, and not only that, it’s fun.[/pullquote]The decorated hay bales remain for the duration of the fair, and for 4-H, the state’s largest youth group, the displays are a chance to reach thousands of kids and parents who aren’t familiar with the organization.

“It’s really a marketing opportunity for us,” said Shannon McCollum, an NC State Extension 4-H associate.  “We get the clover out there in front of people.”

Meanwhile, participants say that it’s a chance for them to practice some of the life skills 4-H teaches, like teamwork and communication. Through their hay bale exhibits, the 4-H’ers encouraged others to “Take a Spin in 4-H,” and to join 4-H to have “Grade A Fun” and to learn “Life Skills That Really Stick.”

Brothers Luke and Jesse Silver were among those who worked on the first-place display from Mitchell County.  Luke said it was good to give back to 4-H.

“4-H has influenced me so much,” he said. “I was really shy. I wouldn’t even speak to people, but through 4-H I’ve grown a lot.”

Jesse agreed, noting that “4-H teaches you life skills, and not only that, it’s fun. You get to go to so many different places and meet a lot of people and make a lot of friends. … It’s just a lot of fun.”

With more than 239,000 participants and 20,500 youth and adult volunteers, North Carolina 4-H offers wide-ranging opportunities for young people: everything from going to camp to starting businesses and from taking part in international exchanges to participating in community service.

NC State University partners with N.C. A&T State University to conduct the 4-H program in North Carolina.

To learn more or to find out how to get involved, visit