EL PASO = The 34th annual El Paso Days is set to be held Aug. 17-22 and after being cancelled last year, the festivities will be all in-person events this year. Some popular events include the …
EL PASO = The 34th annual El Paso Days is set to be held Aug. 17-22 and after being cancelled last year, the festivities will be all in-person events this year. Some popular events include the parade, crisis fund golf tournament, and the infamous “Cow Float” race.
Each year the El Paso Days Committee selects a theme and plans the events around the theme; this year’s theme is 100 years of 4-H. Pierce County is celebrating its 100th anniversary of 4-H programs and being one of the top counties in the state for enrollement, it is fitting to be celebrating this at El Paso Days.
Pierce County has around 670 members in the 22 clubs and more than 100 volunteers across the county. Cloverbuds are 4-H’s youngest members, followed by Explorers, then Junior Fair members.
This year, the El Paso Community Club chose a total of seven Grand Marshals to be honored and celebrated during the parade and all weekend long. They are Linda Steele, Craig and Beth Ingli, Bob and Kathy Traynor and Marsha and Tony Shafer.
Each of these Grand Marshals are 4-H alumni and have shown leadership and involvement in the organization for many years here in Pierce County. They are all residents of El Paso and have had strong ties to the county for generations.
Linda Steele has lived in El Paso her whole life and she is one of the leaders being honored. Steele has been involved in 4-H since she was 10 years old and continues to show in open class and have some involvement to this day.
“It has been over 50 years since I first started and my whole family has been involved in 4-H throughout their lifetimes,” said Steele.
Steele is currently a superintendent in the 4H goat department in Pierce County and enters in open class competitions.
“I compete against my fellow grand marshals and even some of my family members,” Steele said. “It is fun because it’s friendly competition and it’s fun to see who wins each time.”
Another grand marshal who has dedicated extensive chunks of her life to 4-H is Beth Ingli.
“My family started in 1974 and we have been involved pretty much ever since. My five other siblings and I were in the Olivet Otters and parents were general leaders of the club and then I was general leader for eight years and now all of our kids want to join the program too,” she said.
She also continues to show in open class at the county fair and says she hasn’t missed a year, except for last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She continues to stay involved through working in the 4-H Extension office as well.
“Now I work in the 4-H office for Pierce County and I have been there for five years and I am working 90 percent of the time on 4-H, so it is sort of fun now being on the other side of things, entering fair entries and working with the 4-H program and still having that involvement and seeing how it has changed over the past almost 50 years that I have been involved,” she said.
Her husband Craig Ingli got involved a little later and after their children graduated, he joined the 4-H Livestock Committee. The Inglis value the opportunities and morals that 4-H has provided their family.
“It builds a lot of leaders and responsible citizens; there are so many opportunities through the program and learning to work with other people through the clubs and it is just a great opportunity for the youth in the community,” said Beth Ingli.
Bob Traynor has been involved with 4-H for a substantial amount of time and his family has been involved for generations.
“I joined 4-H many years ago and I’m pretty sure my dad actually might have been in the original group 100 years ago,” he said.
As the program changed and open class became an option, Traynor said his family continued to stay involved.
“My dad was a 4-H leader and so was my older brother for quite a while and when they started doing open class, they did it year after year. 2017 marked 70 years that my family had been showing open class dairy at the fair,” he said.
Traynor is now retired from showing but his daughter and granddaughter continue to show at the county fair. He remains involved with the organization as a superintendent for Junior Fair Dairy and has also been a dairy judging coach for 38 years.
Tony and Marsha Shafer have given many years of dedication to the program as well.
“We have been involved with 4-H ever since we were old enough to join and I showed cattle for many years,” Tony Shafer said. “When I was too old for 4-H I switched to showing open class as well. Our kids have always showed in 4-H Olivet Otters, and I have been a dairy leader for the club for many years.”
The seven grand marshals all believe in and support the 4-H program here in Pierce County and they all have a strong family tie feeling when it comes to the organization.
Bob Traynor said, “The sweet thing about 4H is that it fits the need for kids who don’t feel like they belong and there is literally something for everyone and each person has the chance to excel at what you are passionate and interested in.”
Beth Ingli added, “There is a place where everyone can be included and there is something to offer everyone from social media and photography all the way to Guinea pigs.”
The program provides many educational opportunities surrounding farming and agriculture. “Our dairy program in Pierce County hasn’t dropped that much because a lot of kids who aren’t farmers will borrow calves from some of the farmers in the area and show them at the fair, and by doing that we are educating the nonfarming public from the inside of the program which is really neat to see,” said Bob Traynor.
Each of the grand marshals shared some of their favorite memories from 4-H over the years.
“My first year showing I was an Explorer and I had a plant and some brownies and as I was walking the plant fell on the brownies and dirt got all over them and I started crying,” Beth Ingli said. “My mom just said ‘oh, it’ll be fine, just wipe the dirt off’ and then I ended up getting first blue and went up for champion so I have taken that same brownie recipe to the fair ever since.”
Bob Traynor recalled a few memories that stuck with him.
“I’ve been staying over at the fair for at least one night for 50 years and there was one year I woke up and someone’s cow was just a few inches from my face,” he said.
Each of the seven grand marshals, whether involved for their whole lives or more recently, are committed to the morals, values and goals of 4-H and have become exceptional leaders in the organizations.
Photo by Melissa Thorud