George Washington Birthplace National Monument 4-H Club Interprets U.S. History

Through the cooperation and ingenuity of two governmental agencies, Virginia 4-H’ers are helping to save and interpret U.S. history. This unique club (based in Colonial Beach, Virginia) was formed three years ago by National Park Service Ranger Dick Lahey, who has previous 4-H leader experience. When asked how he got the idea for the club he replied, “I had heard at a National Association for Interpretation workshop of such clubs in the west. Also, my wife, Wendy Herdman is the 4-H Extension Agent for Westmoreland and Richmond Counties, and she suggestd that I start the club.” He applied for and received a Special National Park Service Youth Project Grant to create this club which now has about 50 members ranging from Cloverbud through the traditional member ages.

Dick told us, “Member projects include: [making] hand-forged goods like hooks and nails, dancing, and hearth cooking… The members perform living history demonstrations in costume: cooking, spinning, dancing, and blacksmithing at least once a month, year round. We not only demonstrate at the (George Washington) birthplace, we have helped with special events at Booker T. Washington National Monument and local events, most notably the Richmond County Fair.” When asked whether members exhibit at the county fair he said, “Only recently, and mostly non-historic goods, although one member submitted a `kick toaster (1800s iron toasting rack for fireplaces),’ and a leader put in a bed gown.”

You might wonder if the members weren’t doing these demonstrations would anyone else do it. He said, “Very few people do this, and with little regularity, so they are definitely filling a niche and need. Most importantly, they advance the appreciation of the contributions that the Northern Neck (of Virginia) has made to American history.”

If you’d like to learn more about this 4-H Heritage Club or have a similar club in your area, Dick says that he’d like to hear from you. Email or call 804.224.1732, ext. 235.

From National 4-H History Preservation Program.

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