They're heading to the Minnesota State Fair for a two-week stay on Tuesday, putting in as many as 16 hours a day working in the 4-H building as well as living there, too.
But two Brainerd area teens couldn't be more excited about their state fair trip.
Mark Norman, 19, Baxter, and Caitlyn Kennedy, 17, Pequot Lakes, are serving as 4-H state ambassadors at the state fair and also hold state officer positions.
Norman, who has been involved in 4-H since he was 8, is 4-H state president. Kennedy, who has been active in 4-H since she was in second grade, is serving as state treasurer-elect this year. They were elected by other 4-H students to serve in these posts, the first year of service is an apprenticeship and the second year is spent in that position.
Norman is a member of the Baxter Sandpipers 4-H Club while Kennedy is a member of the Pelican Lakes 4-H Club, a club her grandparents, Eugene and Alvina Kennedy, started.
The two teens will join 25 other student ambassadors for two weeks at the state fair. They will help coordinate the stays for the 7,200 4-H kids who will spend time living at the state fairgrounds. About 400 boys and 400 girls, housed in two separate living quarters, live on the third floor of the 4-H building at any given time during the fair, sleeping on rows and rows of bunkbeds.
Norman said the state fair is the highlight of the year for most 4-H'ers and so his job is to ensure they're happy and having a good time. He and the other 4-H state ambassadors also promote 4-H by wearing their signature green shirts and walking around the 4-H building, answering questions and passing out information to visitors.
"I really love the program and I love kids and I wanted to give back," said Norman, on why he decided to run for state president. "I wanted to give back and this is how I wanted to give back."
The Minnesota State Fair runs from Wednesday through Sept. 1. Norman plans to work his last day at the fair Sept. 1, then starts his first day of classes at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities on Sept. 2.
"I like an intense lifestyle," said Norman with a laugh.
Norman is a 2003 Brainerd High School graduate. He was active in soccer, tennis, a cappella choir, mock trial and served as president of the student council.
While many people may think 4-H is all about cows and horses, many 4-H members don't live on farms, but in urban environments. About 260,000 Minnesota children are involved in 4-H, many of whom live in the Twin Cities metro area, said Norman.
"That's what the public thinks, but the majority of 4-H is non-livestock," said Norman. "And it's growing. 4-H is reaching out for everyone."
Norman has competed in the sewing 4-H competitions, making his own hunting attire, along with many other projects. He got involved with 4-H because his older brother and sister were involved. His sister, Martha Norman, was state president three years ago, he said.
State president is the highest position a young person can hold within the 4-H organization.
Kennedy is no stranger to 4-H and to the Minnesota State Fair. A junior at Pequot Lakes High School, Kennedy exhibited at the state fair for two years and last year performed three shows a day in the Arts-In show held in the 4-H building. She is active in tennis, mock trial, speech and serves as vice-president in student council.
"4-H has really changed me," said Kennedy. "It made me more of an outgoing, enthusiastic person and I wanted to help see that change in others.
"It is an amazing variety of people who are there (at the state fair). They're all good kids with extremely different personalities. But they all get along," she said. "There is so much energy there. A lot of people think we would get sick of the state fair but it's such an awesome experience."
"It's kind of a family down there and to see the kids having fun is a thrill for me," said Norman.
Michael Rohr, Staples, also will serve as a state 4-H ambassador at the state fair this week.
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