FARMINGTON – Elaine Wilson first joined 4-H and attended Camp Mar-Mac when she was nine years old. She went back to the camp for one reason or another every year since.
Now, at age 63, she returned to Mar-Mac on Saturday for a special occasion.
“Well, 1965 would have been the first year I came,” Wilson said. “I’m still coming to camp and we have children and grandchildren who are in 4-H.”
Wilson was just one of many 4-H alumni who attended Saturday’s events at the camp to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Camp Mar-Mac. According to the camp leadership, there were nearly 100 alumni members of 4-H from throughout the years who registered to attend the event.
Alumni of Marion County’s 4-H came from around the country to attend the celebration, because full-fledged reunions like these are not a common occurrence for the camp or the organization.
“I know they have had a dinner one day, they have only had one or two other types of reunions,” said Kari Brown Price, 4-H volunteer. “This is the first official big reunion I think they have had – because it’s 100 years.”
During the welcome ceremony, several of the alumni in attendance shared stories of memories from their time at 4-H camp, dating back to the 1940s.
“My first year in 4-H camp was 1947,” said Bill Basnett. “I made so many memories at camp that I still remember to today.”
Others commented that they would not be who they are today without their experience at the 4-H camp. Some found passions that would eventually evolve into careers through participation in 4-H.
“Because of the folk music, that actually led to me being an adjunct at Fairmont State,” said Lynette Swiger, a 4-H alumna. “So now I teach folk music at the Folklife Center. That wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for 4-H.”
The camp provided others with life changing events as well, some of which were documented in an awards ceremony Price hosted.
“Three people have come up and told me that they met their spouses through 4-H,” Price said. “We’re doing a video on sweethearts, people that have met through 4-H. We’re also doing a video on ‘What 4-H means to me’ where we interviewed alumni and people from camp last week, and we mashed those together.”
In addition to the milestone anniversary, the day also played host to the dedication of the camp dining hall being named as the Fairy Downs Hall, in honor of an early member of 4-H in Marion County. Downs’ impact on the organization in its early days helped get it off the ground and make it what it is today.
“Her family donated the original 10 acres of the farm to build a dining hall, ball field and the first bath house,” said Betty Connor Bargeloh, reading a speech penned by her mother and fellow 4-H alum Patti Connor. “During her 20 years, she introduced a science camp which was held each summer for several years. She also helped establish the Margaret Rexrode Scholarship Fund.”
The alumni spent the day at the camp reminiscing at old photographs and memorabilia and also reliving memories by participating in camp rules and regulations as if they were still campers there. For the alumni, the day was a pleasant throwback that reminded them of what 4-H means to them.
Because once in 4-H, always in 4-H.
“The tight bonds you form here are lifelong,” Wilson said.