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By Missy Klatt
Much to her surprise, Carole Schurtz of Forest was awarded the St. Croix County 4-H Living Memorial Award on the last day of the St. Croix County Fair, Sunday, July 24.
Each year a person or couple that have dedicated a lot of time and effort to the St. Croix County Fair to make it a success each year are nominated for this award. The St. Croix County 4-H Leaders Association then votes on the deserving recipient(s). Non 4-H Leaders as well as 4-H Leaders are eligible for this award. A bronze plaque is then placed at the St. Croix County Fairgrounds in the Memorial Garden for the recipient(s) of the award.
Always taking photographs at the fair, Carole had gone to the awards ceremony prepared to take photos of this year’s recipient, little knowing that it was actually going to be herself receiving the award. Sitting with her family right before the ceremony was to begin, Catherine kept saying to Carole, “Give me your camera”. To which Carole kept replying, “No, I have to get this picture.” It’s not unusual for the family to be there for the awards portion of the fair, since they all continue to help out.
Then as Heather Veirling, St. Croix County 4-H Youth Development Agent began reading the intro about the recipient, it soon became apparent as to why Catherine wanted the camera.
Carole first became associated with 4-H in the third grade when she joined the Amnicon Falls 4-H club in Douglas County. Some of the main projects that Carole worked on as a youth were Foods & Nutrition, Photography, and Flowers & House Plants. Their club was also very involved with drama and music, annually performing at UW-Superior.
Carole was the only one of her four siblings to stick with 4-H and participate all the years she could. As a matter of fact when the Amnicon Falls general leader retired and the club folded Carole continued on as an independent 4-Her in high school and did a lot of activities at the county level. One thing that she was proud to be a part of was Superior Days where they showcased different products from Douglas County which they brought to Madison to lobby there to show what the north country could offer Wisconsin.
In high school Carole was also a 4-H Ambassador for Douglas County for three years. Basically Carole fell in love with 4-H. “I think it’s a good program. You can learn a lot if you want to.” stated Carole.
That love of 4-H continued when Carole and her husband, Eric became parents to Catherine and Jacob. When Catherine was in the third grade, Carole signed Catherine up for 4-H and herself up as a project leader. Shortly thereafter Jacob began in 4-H as well. If Carole had known Catherine could have started earlier as a cloverbud she would have signed her up then. However, in Carole’s days as a 4-Her in Douglas County there were no cloverbuds, you had to wait until the 3rd grade to join.
When the kids first started they were members of the Emerald Bellringers 4-H club but after a couple of years they switched to the Forest Timberwolves. Carole stated the Bellringers were mainly about dairy and showing animals and they wanted a club that was a little more diverse since they didn’t live on a farm or show animals. In both of these clubs Carole served as a project leader for crocheting and foods.
Then a few years later another family wanted to start another 4-H club, the Rustic Renegades, and they needed another family so the Schurtz family moved to that club and Carole became the co- general leader.
As a seventh grader Catherine wanted to join the junior ambassadors. When Catherine was in the eighth grade Carole and DeAnn Hammer took over the program and revamped it. One of the first things they did was remove the junior program and just make it ‘St. Croix County 4-H Ambassadors’ for grades 6-12. They then changed the mission of the ambassador program. Before the ambassadors would participate in a lot of parades and do the grunt work at various 4-H events. Carole and DeAnn made the ambassador program into the marketing and promotional arm of St. Croix County 4-H. They would still go to parades but, their main focus was promoting 4-H and what it could offer, “It’s not just about cows.”
It became a program that other counties wanted to emulate. DeAnn and Carole’s goal was to have 20 ambassadors for the county consisting of the cream of the crop of 4-Hers. To be an ambassador they had to interview for a positon, the kids learned to write resumes, cover letters and interview. A life skill, indeed. For some of the ‘top’ 4-Hers Carole was pleased when some realized that they wouldn’t be able to commit to all the time required in this position due to their involvement in school and other activities. She said it showed maturity in the young people when they realized they had limitations.
The kids themselves developed a reward program based on a point system for the different events which included parades, community service and teaching classes at the Fall Forum (Jr. Leader’s Conference). Several ambassadors have gone on to sit on the state 4-H council.
Carole is proud of the program that she and DeAnn developed. After ten years with the ambassadors Carole stepped back in 2019 and is now available as a sounding board for the program.
Carole was elected as a director of the St. Croix County Fair Board in 2017. Prior to that she helped with their promotion, marketing, and premium book.
Carole said the one thing she forgot to mention when she was receiving her award was, “I totally forgot to thank the one person who has always supported both the kids and me during all of our years in 4-H.” she said laughing. “Whether it was attending parades or running the kids to the fair on entry day for judging Eric has always been there. As a non-4-Her he didn’t always understand why it was important but, he has always been supportive of all of us. We sometimes take it for granted because he’s always been there.”
The Award Ceremony
Veirling summed up the rest of Carole’s service with a photography theme. Here’s what Veirling had to say in at the awards presentation:
If you don’t know Carole, she is also sometimes referred to the as the red head with the camera.
Although Carole would never claim to be a professional photographer, her pictures speak volumes, not only in the subject she is trying to capture, but in the photographer herself. Photography is expressed in a variety of formats and Carole excels in many.
Still Photography – Carole is responsible for the editing and printing of the St. Croix County Fair Book. This is no easy task, with many hours staring at a computer screen looking for the smallest mistakes.
Black & White Photography – Carole served as the treasurer of the Friends of the St. Croix County Fair for ten years, assisting with fundraising efforts for the new building projects you see around the fairgrounds.
Trick Photography – Annually, Carole creates all of the St. Croix County Fair advertising and marketing materials. Additionally, she manages the website and social media page and works with sponsors year-round.
Aerial Photography – Carole has the ability to see the larger picture. As the St. Croix County 4-H Leaders Association President she was able to uphold the traditions of the past while moving the program forward and setting goals for our future.
Action Photography – Carole is not afraid of a challenge. Whether it’s helping to start a new 4-H club or revamping our 4-H Ambassador program, she jumps in with both feet.
Wildlife Photography – Imagine one hundred and twenty-five, six-to-eight-year old’s running at you. 4-H Clover College has been a growing event. The success of this program lies in the planning committee, where Carole has served for many years. Carole has also volunteered her time to chaperone youth at state 4-H events.
Selfie Photography – Whether it’s 4-H or the fair Carole volunteers’ endless hours for organizations she believes in yet remains humble and always talks about the team effort.
Portrait Photography – Carole’s greatest joy in life is her family. Although her children have now become adults, she continues sharing her gifts and talents with our communities.
Summing up her thoughts about 4-H, Carole remarks, “I think it’s better than scouting because it’s more about learning than achieving. It’s about learning life skills.” Carole concludes her remarks about 4-H by stating “I’m a lifer.”
If you would like to join 4-H please contact Heather Vierling, St. Croix County 4-H Youth Development Agent at email@example.com, 1960 8th Ave, Suite 140 Baldwin, WI 54002 or 715-531-1938