Linn 4-H, 100, still young at heart

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Lynn Greene | August 24, 2014

ELKHORN -- No organization gets to the ripe old age of 100 purely on its own merits -- credit must go to the people who came before. Certainly this is true of the Linn 4-H Club, which celebrates its centennial this year.

“One hundred years of anything in the ever-changing and fast-paced world in which we live is something to be proud of,” said Debbie Burkman, Walworth County's 4-H youth development coordinator.

Linn is the oldest and first 4-H club formed in Wisconsin. As such, the club is playing an important part in this year's Walworth County Fair.

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“It's going to be a very busy opening day,” said Becky Merwin, centennial planning committee member.

Linn 4-H Club co-general leader Donna Kundert agreed with Merwin.

“It's been a challenge this year, with all the extra stuff, just really, really busy,” she said.

Kundert has been involved with the club for 42 years.

Opening day of the fair is Wednesday, Aug. 27. Because 4-H members are required to exhibit their work publicly, the fair is the culmination of the year's work for most members. Traditionally, honorary marshals cut the ribbon to signify the start of the six-day long fair. But this year, in honor of the centennial, 4-H members past and present will line up near the Activity Center and parade to the Park Stage. As the oldest club, Linn 4-H Club will lead the procession. Organizers are hoping to have 100 past and present members and leaders march behind the club banner. The next oldest club, LaGrange, will be second in line, followed by the remaining 17 active clubs.

Dee Dee (York) Giovingo, an alumna of the Linn 4-H Club, will carry the club's banner. Her daughter, Grace, is a current member of the club and the great, great granddaughter of an original club member when it was formed in 1914. Merwin's parents were general leaders of the club from 1951 to 1964. Merwin and husband, Ernie, were general leaders from 1968 to 1997. Before and after the Merwins, there were Yorks leading the club.

York, Hatch, Massey, Lasch, Mergener, Gavin, Ledger, Batchelet and Rowbotham -- these are the names associated with the club in the very beginning. Any one of those founding members could look at today's membership roster and find a familiar name.

“There are whole generations involved,” Merwin said. Today's co-leaders include Kundert's husband, Dan; Sandi Pillman, a relatively new member at 22 years; and Lisa Lasch. This group has kept the club running smoothly since 2000.

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