4-H Fair: 42 years and loving every minute

Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
This year Theresia Seitz can be found helping in the poultry barn at the Dubois County 4-H Fair, but in the 42 years she’s been volunteering she has played a part in nearly all aspects of the 4-H fair.

By MICHAEL MAZUR
Special Sections Writer

Theresia Seitz is someone who can show you that it is never too late to become involved with 4-H.

All you need is a reason and to love working with children. She was never involved with 4-H as a kid and didn’t get involved when her two oldest children, Sheila (Wilson) and Doug, became members. It was about five years later, when her youngest child, Brian, became a member that she decided to get involved.

“In my neighborhood there were 12 to 14 kids” and I decided to organize our own club, the Patoka River Gang. Her two eldest dropped out of their other club and joined hers. So with her three children she began to learn along with them. That began her 42-year journey with 4-H.

“I didn’t know much about a lot of stuff, but I learned with them,” she said. She hunted for leaves in the woods with her children, collecting leaves from various trees to display on exhibit boards for their forestry projects. Those boards were pretty, she said.

One year, Doug, was awarded grand champion at the Dubois County Fair and at the Indiana State  Fair for his leaf display board.

That year, she says, she remembers well. The local fair judge said that her son’s board was well done, but there is one mistake, a leaf was labeled wrong. As her eyes widened in surprise with that comment, she “politely challenged” the judge. After a little discussion, the judge agreed with her and stood corrected. “I will never forget that,” she said with a mother’s smile.

Her 4-H involvement included leading the Patoka River Gang club for 12 years — only disbanding the club when Brian finished his 4-H career — serving as a council member for six years and performing various duties as a 4-H volunteer.

Theresia raised poultry for a long time because she liked the various breeds of chickens. Along with her husband, they built a 60-foot-long building from lumber laying around the farm to house the chickens. The building was compartmentalized to separate the 60 different breeds. Along with raising chickens, she raised wildlife like peacocks, chukar and quail.

Growing up as she raised chickens, it was only natural that her children would include poultry in their 4-H projects. She had wanted a building dedicated to house the chicken exhibits during the fair. It took a while before that building came to fruition, but in part it came through the efforts of her and a couple of others. They became council members and advocated for a building and eventually one was constructed.

She wanted a dedicated building because she remembers when the chickens were housed under a tent and one night during the fair it stormed, raining so hard that the rain was blowing inside the tent. “I remember that the chickens were wet as can be,” she said.

And she is very proud that she was instrumental in writing the rules for showing poultry which includes not only chickens but ducks. She said to this day those rules still stand with the exception of one change that created a separate category for large fancy breeds like the Rhode Island Red.

She has performed many tasks as a volunteer, from ordering the food items for the two foods booths at the tractor pull when it was held during the fair, setting up and tearing down exhibits and aiding in the judging process to chaperoning the kids who spent the night in the animal exhibit barns, including the hog, cow, chicken and rabbit barns.

Part of her job was to make sure the exhibits remained intact and to keep the mischievous kids in line. That was a hard thing to do, she said, kids will be kids, you had to keep one eye open. You can’t catch them all, she added.

“They got us once,” she said as a smile spread across her face. One of her children had exhibited white New Zealand rabbits and sometime after the fair she noticed one “looked like it was going to have babies.” When the rabbit gave birth, some were black and various shades of gray. She knew then that someone had put a black rabbit in with New Zealand rabbit’s cage. “They (the kids) have been known to do things like that,” she said.

She use to spend the entire fair week at the fairgrounds. She would park her camper at the campground and she and her children would stay there overnight. Since she was spending a lot of time at the barns, she eventually parked her camper near them instead of the campground. 

Even while volunteering for 4-H, she found the time to order the food and work in the Northeast Dubois High School  band booth as all her children were in band.

“I tell people if you have kids in 4-H get involved with them and their projects. It is so much fun.”

She was very proud when her children won awards. They each one numerous grand champion awards in many project areas, but as you would expect they also won with their chickens. Brian was named 4-H’er of the year and also won the Sousa award in band.

“Between raising animals on the farm, raising my children and working with 4-H and band, I don’t know how I did it, but I am glad I did and I really loved working with the kids,” she said.

Now, at 82, she has been winding down her volunteering workload doing what she can handle. She is going on her 43rd year with 4-H and admits she “can’t do all that I did before and that this might be her last year. “Just depends on how I feel. I want to do it, but I don’t know if I still can,” she said.

“I put a lot into that club (4-H) and I loved every minute of it,” she said.

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A special section previewing this year's Dubois County 4-H Fair is here: http://bit.ly/2tPMbsD




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