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Alumni provide tribute to a century of 4-H

Lisa Hinton said the barn at the fairgrounds in Dade City became her second home as she was growing up in Pasco County.

"I joined 4-H in Pasco County when I was 8 years old, and agriculture has been a part of my life ever since," she said.

Hinton has been the agriculture manager at the Florida State Fair since 1979 and on Tuesday night she talked about 4-H and what it means to her. She shared stories, made people laugh and even brought tears to a few eyes.

Forty alumni and friends celebrated 100 years of 4-H in the United States at the county extension building at the fairgrounds on State Road 52 in Dade City.

"I have awesome memories of the county fair," Hinton said. "But, when I pulled out my record book recently, I realized it wasn't as big as I thought it was, and this building isn't as big as it used to be."

This celebration is one of several planned for the next few years, leading up to a big one in 2009 when the Pasco County program is 100 years old.

Jean Hink, Pasco County 4-H agent, welcomed those in attendance.

"Our goal is to gather some history and photos before the big celebration in 2009," she said.

One of the speakers, Luther Rozar, was a 4-H leader in 1958.

"I have fond memories of this room," he said.

Rozar also told a story about 4-H camp in 1962.

"Chuck Smith and I were camping at a 4-H boy's camp (back then boys and girls were separated) and Hurricane Donna came through," he said. "We lost all our power and we couldn't do anything. I had given my car to the bus driver who wasn't due back for a few days and we had no way to get home.

"So we hot wired the bus and drove everyone to Ridge Manor where we finally found a phone that worked," he said. "We called the bus driver and told him to come and get the children and bus in Dade City."

Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida, was another speaker.

"The fair and county events days were favorites," she said. "I remember when my chicken won grand champion and I didn't even know why I picked her out of the bunch (to show)."

4-H gave her a lot of guidance as to what she could and could not do.

"I learned it was not good for me to cook or to sew," MacManus said. "But I found out I liked public speaking, and if I had not learned about parliamentary procedure, I would be in a bad way today."

She said her first trip to Washington, D.C., was when she was in 4-H.

"Since then I have met four presidents, the first one was Lyndon Johnson," she said. "Patriotism, civic duty and service to country are important in 4-H," she said.

Fun and friendship also are a part of 4-H.

Hinton said she remembered sewing pillows until 3 in the morning for a fundraiser with other 4-H members.

"For food demonstrations we had to cook the same recipe for lasagna at least 24 different times," she said. "After that no one wanted to ever see lasagna again."

MacManus spoke of her appreciation for the countless hours the leaders put into 4-H, especially her mother.

At the end of the program, awards were given to several 4-H alumni.

Josephine Shafchuk received a plaque for being the oldest 4-H member in attendance. She is 79. (Elizabeth MacManus, Susan's mother, also received a plaque as she also is 79, but a few months younger than Shafchuk.)

Charlotte Tomkow was recognized for her 15 years as a volunteer leader and Sharon McBride for having the most grandchildren in 4-H: three, who live in Jacksonville.

Maxine Clayton of Hudson traveled the farthest to the celebration and Leslie Ehrich received special recognition for serving as council president the longest time ago: she served in 1963-64.

In Pasco County there are more than 400 children and teenagers in 4-H in 13 different clubs. Volunteers are always needed. For information, call Caroline Shelton, program assistant, at (352) 521-4288.

_ Michelle Jones covers central Pasco community news. She can be reached at 1-800-333-7505 ext. 4612 or (813) 909-4612. Her e-mail address is jonessptimes.com.

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