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Calla 4-H animals win big at 2011 San Joaquin County fair
Calla 4-H members who won major awards at the recent San Joaquin County Fair for their animal projects are, left to right: Justin Taylor, Jacob Burns, Cristina Franzia, Carly Thissen, and Kristen Flores. - photo by Photo Contributed

The Manteca Calla 4-H monopolized the animal-exhibit awards at the 2011 San Joaquin County Fair.

That’s as far as local 4-H clubs go. And that’s because they are the last of the 4-H clubs in the Manteca area. All the rest have gone the way of the manual typewriter in a digital world.

At one time, there were three active clubs in the area. The Nile Garden 4-H folded a few years ago, with another group calling it quits even before that.

“So we’re the only one surviving in Manteca and we want to keep it that way. We think it’s great for the kids,” said Nancy Franzia, one of the adult leaders of the lone surviving group, the Calla 4-H.

But even without any competition from similar local groups, “Calla really did well – the kids, everyone,” said Franzia whose two children were among those who snagged ribbons at the fair.

“The lambs did really well, but the sheep did especially well. The sheep project did the best ever this year,” she said.

Member Jacob Burns was the group’s big winner this year; his duroc pig was dubbed a champion by the judges.

Franzia said all in all, Calla 4-H members showed rabbits, sheep, goats and swine. The group swept the competition by going home with a long laundry list of winners. It’s a feat that is deserving of recognition for the efforts put in by the young students, Franzia said.

“Showing an animal at the fair requires the kids to be at the fair every day for a week by 7 a.m. to clean pens, and they often do not leave until night time, after the animals have been fed and put to bed,” explained Franzia, noting the extent of the dedication and hard work that the young 4-Hers invest into this effort.

And that’s not all the work that the students put into their animal exhibits. Showing their animals at the fair is simply the culmination of long hours of hard work that the young members give to their projects months before that.

But animal exhibits at the fair are not the only projects offered by Calla 4-H which, today, is 50 members strong, Franzia pointed out.

“Within Calla 4-H we have different projects: swan, rabbits, goat, sheep, chicken, cow. Then we have arts and crafts and sewing. The kids pick what they’re interested in,” said Franzia who is one of the new breed of young Calla 4-H leaders.

Franzia herself has just been a leader for just a year. She did not volunteer; she wasn’t even asked. She just simply “grew” into it since two of her children are club members.

Besides, there was a great need for leaders in the club “because our old leaders retired,” she said.

Project leaders such as Franzia cannot emphasize enough the importance of leaders for the children.

“The key to 4-H, really, is parent involvement. We need them to be project leaders, to be at meetings, get involved in organizing things. That’s what makes (the club) successful. (4-H) is not something where you drive by and drop your kid off,” said Franzia who is a CPA but is currently a stay-at-home mom.

“I would like to emphasize that parent support is what makes us successful; we need all parents to participate,” she added.

Be that as it may, the club leadership really belongs to the kids with the parents providing them the help, she said.

The club itself meets once a month, but the various leaders organize their own meetings – “usually once a month, more or less,” Franzia said. The club and all its members currently meet at New Haven School . Project leaders just started meeting also at the school just last year.

“Of course, the animal project (group) members don’t meet there. They meet at someone’s house or wherever their animals are kept,” Franzia said.

Club projects, though, are not limited to the ones mentioned above. “We really to keep leadership and talking in public and not just animals,” she said.

They also keep the club alive by introducing such fun activities as geocaching and skiing.

Since there is only the Calla 4-H now available in the area, the club gets memberships from different schools in the school district. “We have kids from McParland School and from Lathrop High School,” Franzia said.

Kids as young as those in kindergarten can join Calla 4-H. At that level, they are known as Clovers. 4-H actually begins in fourth grade and goes up to senior level in high school

After their finish elementary, 4-H members have the option of continuing in FFA or they can choose to say in 4-H, Franzia said.

For those who would like to learn more about Calla 4-H, they are invited to attend Information Night on Thursday, Aug. 18, starting at 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria at New Haven School located on Austin Road just north of East Lathrop Road. They can also log on to 4H, or contact nancia Franzia at (209) 823-0534 or Kristy Bean at (209) 825-8010.