The Fremont 4-H Expo holds a special place in Jean Schafersman’s heart.
Along with competing in various events at the annual expo throughout her childhood, and serving as a leader and various other capacities while her three sons were 4-H’ers, Schafersman can now add “2019 Fremont 4-H Expo Grand Marshal” to her list of fond memories when the expo wraps up this weekend.
Schafersman, who has lived in Hooper for many years, will serve as this year’s Grand Marshal at the Fremont 4-H Expo which begins today and runs through Saturday, July 13 after more than half-a-century of involvement with 4-H.
Growing up in Washington County, Schafersman remembers coming to what was then called the Fremont 4-H Fair and having a heck of a time during one particular song contest.
“Our club was going to sing at the coronation and we came all dressed up in these long dresses and it just poured down rain,” she reminisced. “That was a tough go—and my mom was mad that I got my dress dirty.”
As one of eight siblings, Schafersman says that as a child she relied on many of her 4-H leaders as extended parental figures while her mother had her hands full.
“I firmly believe it takes a village to raise a family and so having seven siblings my mom wasn’t able to help me a lot, so 4-H leaders were a big part of my life,” she said. “They helped me sew, cook, all these different things—and all those things we did as a group, as a club.”
When Schafersman’s grew up, and became a mother herself, she strived to continue that legacy through her children and many other 4-H’ers as a local leader.
Schafersman’s dedication to the Fremont 4-H Expo was unwavering even as she gave birth to her youngest son.
“My youngest child was born during the Fremont 4-H Fair, and our two older boys brought their 4-H projects up to the hospital for me to check before they entered,” she said.
Even giving birth wouldn’t stop her from attending the events that year.
“I had him in the morning and I went home that night so I could go to the fair,” she laughed.
Now, as her three sons have grown and had children of their own, Schafersman gets to introduce the 5th generation of her family to 4-H.
But for Schafersman, whether it was the enjoyment she got from participating in 4-H as a child, or as a parent, grandparent, or leader, what it is really all about is the kids who participate.
“There are six million 4-H’ers in the U.S. and it’s really all about them,” she said. “It’s about volunteering, helping them, teaching them leadership skills, and to always be involved. Teaching them to have a servant’s heart.”
Schafersman’s duties as Grand Marshal include crowning the king and queen and serving as a representative of the expo during the annual John C. Fremont Days Parade on Sunday.
While 4-H clubs and the Fremont 4-H Expo are a great opportunity for area youth to develop an agricultural background, Fremont 4-H Expo Board President Kevin Prinz says it does a whole lot more for kids.
“It really develops their leadership skills and just helps them succeed in a lot of different aspects of life,” he said. “You sit down and get one of those kids across the table from you and start looking at one of their resumes, they are very impressive.”
Prinz says that while showing animals is, and continues to be a large part of 4-H, the organization has changed a lot in the past decade and continues to provide a wide variety of opportunities and activities.
“There are so many opportunities as far as what your choices are to exhibit when you get into the static stuff,” he said. “You can get into rocketry, cooking, sewing, shooting sports all sorts of different stuff.
“It’s not just a rural thing, it’s really for anybody.”
The Fremont 4-H Expo runs from July 10-13 at Christensen Field with nine counties of 4-H clubs being represented. Those nine counties include: Burt, Butler, Colfax, Cuming, Dodge, Douglas, Sarpy, Saunders and Washington.
A full list of events at this year’s Fremont 4-H Expo can be found online at https://extension.unl.edu/statewide/dodge/frfourhexhguide/.