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st patrick's day paradeSussex County 4-H Clubs participate in holiday parades in Newton (Holiday and St. Patrick's) and in Branchville (Memorial Day).

Do 4-H clubs learn anything from participating in the holiday parade? After all it’s just a fun walk around the town, right?

As anybody working at the Greater Newton Chamber of Commerce will tell you, parades require a lot of planning and organization! For some 4-H clubs the parade may require making costumes or decorating trucks, floats or wagons. 4-H Knexters Club members created a mobile “4” and “H” (their own float). For other clubs it may involve outfitting sheep with sleigh bells and holiday ribbons, or helping their goat sport a holiday banners. (Rabbits, chickens and other smaller animals dress for the occasion too, but you have to look closer!) And for some, it may just be putting a set of sewn reindeer antlers on their dog (don’t worry; the dog doesn’t have to pull a sled like the Grinch’s beloved Max.)

horsewise at holiday paradeWhile it’s not as big an event as the Fair, 4-H clubs still prepare, plan and participate. Their efforts here, while not as extensive are still important and contribute to member’s overall 4-H experience.

4-H members aren’t the only ones who benefit either. For the canines in our Love on a Leash seeing-eye puppy club, the parade is an important opportunity to hone skills they’ll need if they become guide dogs assisting the blind. (They seem to enjoy the parade as much as everybody else, though.)

love on a leash club at paradeAt the parade 4-H members march with their clubs, but have the chance to meet and spend time with members from other clubs and youth organizations. They also get to see other community based groups such as police, local fire companies and church groups. Their participation reminds 4-H members—and all of us—of the important role these organizations play in our community. And that’s what parades are really all about: celebrating everybody’s contributions.

The parade also brings the community closer to 4-H. The 4-H clubs become not just the farm kids, club displays and projects they saw at the Fair back in August, they’re part of clubs that go on throughout the year and these clubs are part of the youth fabric of our community.
sussex shepherds at holiday parade

As a bonus, folks may even get to walk away with some holiday treats in their pockets. You just need to be careful picking up any candy from the street after 4-H livestock clubs have been through—those ain’t Raisinettes© !

But in the end, parades are really, mostly about fun, and so is 4-H. The kids have fun. They see adults having fun too. They learn that fun can happen in a relatively simple way (no long lines for daredevil rides or concession stands). Everybody gets some fresh air, has the opportunity to meet new people, catch up with old friends and take a moment to pause, reflect and take some pride in the community we’re fortunate enough to live in, before the rush of the holiday season draws our attention elsewhere.