The 4-H fairgrounds are busy as Achievement Days are in full swing. Interestingly, one club, the Busy Blue Bells, has been sending members to the county fair for over 65 years.
Peggy Jensen was one of the very first leaders of the 4-H club which began in the mid to late 1950’s. Once her girls were old enough to participate in 4-H, she and Joyce Eykamp decided to start a club so their daughters and any other young girls in the community could join. The minimum age to be in 4-H at that time was 10.
One of the first things Jensen and Eykamp did after deciding they would be the leaders of the club was to come up with a name. They each submitted ideas for names and had the girls who wanted to join 4-H vote on which one they liked best. Jensen submitted the name Busy Blue Belles, the name they chose.
The Busy Blue Belles 4-H Club was open to girls in the Lake Preston community.
“If my memory serves me correctly, I believe the club started with around 10-12 girls,” Jensen said.
Some of the first members of the club were Jean, Joann and Janice Jensen, all Jensen’s daughters, Susan, Betty and Janet Wienk, Elaine Nelson, Brenda Thompson, Marjorie Johnson, Cheryl Lolling, Sandra Danielson and Barbara Eykamp.
According to Jensen, these girls would gather at least once a month, having lots of fun. Little did they know, while they were having fun, their leaders were also teaching them life lessons. They did community service projects, and Jensen taught the girls how to knit, sew, bake and cook. Once Achievement Days rolled around, Jensen and Eykamp would make sure everyone had at least one project to exhibit, although the girls normally exhibited more projects.
The 4-H members also had to give oral reasons at judging schools. This taught the girls how to express opinions and gain confidence in their speaking abilities. Every year, they put together a display about 4-H and placed it in the grocery store window on Main Street. The 4-H club also did skits for the Recognition Banquet and would teach the Virginia Reel, a folk dance.
Susan Wienk, now Everson, recalled some of her early 4-H years. She remembers putting together record books, and that it seems like red and white ribbons were used more when she was in 4-H than now. She added that what are now considered visual arts projects were then called “handicrafts.”
“My advice to 4-H’ers is to make sure you take lots of pictures of your projects and activities, as they are fun to look back on as you get older,” said Everson.
Jensen served as a 4-H leader of the Busy Blue Belles for 35 years. One of her favorite memories was taking a group to Washington, D.C. for a 4-H trip.
“This trip was not only very educational for the girls, but for me as well,” Jensen said.
Today, the Busy Blue Bells 4-H Club still carries on some of the core values it did when the club first started. The members try to meet at least every other month, if not more often. They try to do at least a couple community service projects throughout the year. Also, they complete at least one craft project that can be exhibited at Achievement Days and hold a bake sale and pie auction yearly.
However, there have been some changes over the years as well. They have dropped the “e” in Belles,” as the club now includes both girls and boys. When the club first started, members did not show livestock. Now, many of the current and past members show cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and rabbits.
One of the community service projects members of the Busy Blue Bells Club like to do is spend time at the Silver Plains in Lake Preston. For the past several years, they worked with the residents to create paintings on canvas or wood. This year, they played Bingo with the residents.
Once Jensen heard that the Busy Blue Bells 4-H Club was visiting them at Silver Plains, she shared how she helped to start that club.
Megan Eichler is the current leader of the Busy Blue Bells, having been in that role for 17 years. Currently, the club has 17 members ranging in age from 8-18 and even a few clover buds, ages 5-7, who are not old enough to be in 4-H but are still able to attend meetings and learn some of the ropes.
“I have always had a passion for 4-H since I was a young 8-year-old girl who joined the Busy Blue Bells,” said Eichler. “I really grabbed on to a lot of the opportunities the organization had to offer and felt so strongly about it that I became a leader as a young adult. Now, I enjoy working with kids to show them new areas to grow, and how rewarding it is to give back to their community.”
Be sure to swing down to the 4-H fair grounds in De Smet and look for signs in the barns for the Busy Blue Bells, a club rooted deeply in history.
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