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4-H kids always win, even without the blue ribbon

Janessa Palmer, member of St. Johns Road Runners 4-H Club, showed her horse Sienna. Tribune photo by Nicole Hovatter

“4-H really emphasizes being a good sport, learning and improving, no matter what color ribbon you get,” said Janessa Palmer, a St. John’s Road Runners 4-H Club member.

In her seven years of 4-H, she said sportsmanship was the most important skill she learned.

Janessa Palmer was at the county fair with her father, Robert Palmer, showing her horse, Sienna.

Robert Palmer said 4-H encourages his daughters, Janessa and Joely Palmer, to develop their multiple talents. He was involved in 4-H as a child and encouraged his children to join St. John’s Road Runners.

“I encouraged my kids to join 4-H because I knew the value of it,” said Robert Palmer.

Janessa Palmer joined 4-H after attending a summer horse camp, where a fellow camper encouraged her to join.

She has participated in a variety of events during her 4-H years. She signed up recently for the state horse show.

A 2013 Willmar High School grad and sophomore at the University of Minnesota, Janessa Palmer is studying animal science, in hopes of working with horses.

The Palmer family lives in Willmar. Janessa Palmer said it was an adjustment moving to the Twin Cities to study, but the university feels familiar to her because of its strong animal science program.

“It was already like a second home,” said Janessa Palmer.

4-H helped her choose a career path and won a scholarship through the national Distinguished Young Women competition hosted in Mobile, Ala.

She said her experience with public speaking in 4-H helped her with interview portions of the competition.

“4-H is a knowledge-based, experience-based learning experience,” said Janessa Palmer. “You explain what you did, how you learned from it and how you benefited from it during interviews.”

Her sister, Joely Palmer, also showed her horses at the fair this year.

She also won a blue ribbon in the photography competition and will move on to the state fair competition.  

The family’s favorite part of the county fair is sharing what they’ve worked on during the year.

Janessa said the Kandiyohi County Dairy Association’s dairy stand ice cream was a close second.

She hopes to continue her 4-H experiences as a volunteer in coming years.

Further down the horse barn, sisters Noel and Abby Dittbenner were mingling with 4-H friends.

The sisters are part of Fahlun Go-Getters 4-H Club and were camping out with their family at the county fair.

Noel Dittbenner, an incoming junior at New London-Spicer High School, showed her horse, Josi. She will also show at the state horse show.

“I love horses,” said Noel Dittbenner. “It’s my passion. Everyone else has sports, like volleyball. This is my sport.”

Noel Dittbenner has been in 4-H for five years and riding her horse every day this summer to prepare for the fair.

“It’s a big thing to do,” said Noel Dittbenner. “It takes a lot of work.”