Burton, OH – On Sunday, September 5, 2021, runners will gather at The 199th Great Geauga County Fair to run in the 3rd annual Great Geauga County Fair 4-H 5K and Fun Run. Running a picturesque route through Ohio’s oldest continuous county fair and scenic Burton Village, these runners will be helping support multiple 4-H clubs in the county: Geauga Engineering And Robotics (GEAR), Geauga Prime Time, Breeders & Feeders, Plantmasters, and Geauga Caprine Kids.
Started three years ago to benefit the GEAR 4-H group, the race has grown, with more clubs participating each year. The newest 4-H club to join is the Plantmasters club, which focuses on horticulture.
“The goal from the first year has been to build out a community of 4-H,” said Bill Patterson, adviser to the Geauga Engineering And Robotics (GEAR) 4-H group and owner of Patterson Fruit Farm, which has been a sponsor of the race each year. “While COVID slowed down the plans, we would envision all 4-H clubs in the county being able to participate in the race. This can provide opportunities for club members to learn about other clubs and interact with other club members. It also incorporates fitness into 4-H, which is so important. And what better place than the Geauga County Fair for this to happen?”
These 4-H clubs have members with diverse projects, from market beef to photography, and are training the leaders of tomorrow.
“4-H is much more than just animals and farms,” Patterson said. “4-H provides opportunities for Ohio youth to lead, learn and grow through hands-on and real-life experiences in a variety of disciplines. In Geauga County alone, there are 4-H clubs for horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, rabbits, dogs, sewing, cooking, plants, archery and other shooting sports, crafting, scrapbooking, genealogy and robotics … and there are many, many more across the state. Many individuals credit 4-H with being their first and most significant leadership experience that has led to life-long opportunities in these fields and more.”
One of those members is Jim Horowitz, a former 4-H GEAR member who participated and won awards in robotics competitions. “I really enjoyed GEAR because the LaFavres teach you the true science behind engineering at an approachable level,” Horowitz said. “GEAR allowed me to comfortably explore the vast fields of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science under the guidance of knowledgeable mentors.” Horowitz just completed his first year at Case Western Reserve University.
“The GEAR 4-H club has meant everything to me” said Robert Sunderhaft, past 4-H GEAR member. “It was an incredible experience in middle school and high school that gave me the tools and resources to learn robotics and engineering at a level no other place offered. GEAR pushed my intellectual boundaries and constantly challenged me to be the best scientist/engineer I could be. Looking back on GEAR, I will always relish the memories I made with the members of GEAR. The leaders are some of the greatest people I have come to know and have always supported me in my endeavors. I can firmly say that GEAR is one of the main reasons I have been able to pursue Data Analytics at the Ohio State University and apply my engineering skills to the association Engineers Without Borders,” Sunderhaft said
Funding these diverse projects with state-of-the-art technology is challenging, and the 5K race provides both a source of funding and a chance for others to learn about the unique opportunities these clubs offer. Among these include a planned trip by 4-H Plantmasters to see the glacial grooves at Kelley’s Island in Lake Erie and various regional and national robotics competitions by members of 4-H GEAR.
Creating and managing a charity race is a learning opportunity for these future leaders, too. “This is a 4-H member-driven fundraiser and a member-driven event. All the planning, decisions, requests for sponsorships and day-of preparedness are expected to be driven by the 4-H members, with the adult volunteers assisting, as needed,” Patterson explained, stating that this year’s committee is creating a framework for future race planners to use.
As the The Great Geauga County Fair 4-H 5K grows, it offers the opportunity for more 4-H members to learn and grow. “Certainly, the future of this event is going to be the partnerships with the other clubs,” Patterson said. “This is the second year for Geauga Primetime, Geauga Caprine Kids and Breeders ‘N Feeders. These clubs engaged sponsors, runners and volunteers and will be key in growing this event. We are also excited to be adding Plantmasters to the group this year.”
Another opportunity for learning for 4-H members is how sponsorship works for charity events, and how to interact with business owners regarding race sponsorship. “This race could not happen with the generous support of the Geauga County Agricultural Society (Geauga Fair Board)” Patterson said. “The support of each one of you is appreciated, and we strive to provide an event that is worthy of being connected to The Great Geauga County Fair!”.
For more than a century, 4-H, as part of the Ohio State University Extension Geauga County, has trained the leaders of tomorrow by encouraging experiential learning, community service, and leadership skills. Under the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and in partnership with 100 public universities, 4-H reaches more than 6 million children across the country and seeks to live up to its motto of “To make the best better.”