4-H’ers enjoy Minn. cultural exchange

The La Plata County 4-H interstate exchange club has just returned home from a wonderful week visiting with Pipestone County, Minn., 4-H.

The interstate exchange is a two-year program. This year our club traveled, and next year we will host their members here in Colorado.

It is a great opportunity for our youths to experience the culture of another area and to build lifelong friendships with other 4-H members and families. Over the years, La Plata County 4-H has exchanged with clubs from Pennsylvania to Oregon.

This year we experienced the “Power of the Plains.” Pipestone County is in the southwest corner of Minnesota and borders South Dakota to the west. However, our visit started with a day in the Twin Cities, about four hours northeast of Pipestone. We were picked up in a purple school bus and headed to the state capitol in St. Paul. The capitol is a beautiful display of famous architect Cass Gilbert’s work. We enjoyed the rest of the day at the enormous Mall of America. Youths had fun playing in the amusement park inside the mall and visiting the underground aquarium.

The rest of the week was spent on the prairie surrounded by corn and soybean fields. Pipestone’s slogan is “Peace pipes, pioneers and progress.”

Pipestone is home to the Native American Peacepipe Quarries. We saw firsthand the quarrying of this sacred red stone and crafting of peace pipes at the Pipestone National Monument. The monument provided a great history of the area and importance of peace pipes to the native culture.

Another highlight was the progressive supper their club organized. This helped us build a strong group culture by visiting some of the different farms where our members were hosted.

We started at an annual vegetable farm with salads from their abundant garden, and then moved to a dairy farm, and then to an Angus cattle farm for a barbecue, before finishing off at a horse farm where the kids could ride and also play in their pool and enjoy ’smores at a bonfire. Yes, a bonfire, which was a treat as well as fireworks on the Fourth of July for us Coloradans.

Pipestone was unique in that dotted along the beautiful prairie countryside are rows of wind generators and wind and solar businesses. We took a wind power tour at Juhl Wind Inc. and saw how this expanding business was making a great economic and environmental impact in the plains.

The trip wouldn’t be complete without going to one of the 10,000 lakes of Minnesota. We had a great time at Lake Shetak State Park tubing, swimming and camping out. Also, we saw the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant in De Smet, S.D., to get the complete prairie experience.

Overall, the greatest success came with 4-H youths from different states just having good old-fashioned fun. Every day the laughter got louder and smiles bigger. We thank all the Minnesota families for their kind hospitality and the planning and organizing of their 4-H program coordinator, Lisa Kelley. We look forward to next summer showing off La Plata County.

felsengh@co.laplata.co.us or 382-6463. Greg Felsen is La Plata County 4-H youth development agent.