Dwight Loveday, Interim Assistant Dean & Department Head
This is Thanksgiving week. A special time to express our gratitude for our blessings and time to be grateful for our families. But, for a group of 37 Tennessee 4-Hers it is National 4-H Congress week! For some, it will be their last official Tennessee 4-H activity. For all, it is several exciting and fulfilling days of fellowship, learning and serving. They should have great pride in earning their trip to National Congress.
This is my fourth National 4-H Congress. My first, and most memorable, was the fall of 1966. I represented Tennessee as the state Swine project winner. The 45th National 4-H Club Congress (note Club was part of name) was held at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in downtown Chicago, IL. The Congress theme that year was “Pursuit of Excellence”. National 4-H Club Congress provided me many “firsts”. My first airplane ride. I flew from Knoxville to Nashville to join the rest of the Tennessee delegation. There we had a reception to send us off to Chicago. My first grand hotel and my first real encounter with northern wind and snow. For a bacon and eggs kind of guy, Congress gave me the opportunity to eat a baked potato with cream chipped beef for breakfast! I had never heard a symphony orchestra. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra had a guest conductor – Arthur Fiedler of the Boston Pops Orchestra. We visited the Natural History and the Science and Industry museums. I attended large banquets, walked the busy streets of a large city, treated to big time entertainment and certainly had never seen the real Miss America.
I proudly wore the white sweater with the Tennessee Vol State emblem that that told everyone that I was a Tennessee 4-Her. I still have a small suitcase packed with Congress memorabilia. Moorman Feeds sponsored the Swine Project national awards program. Although I was not a national winner nor was a Moorman Feed scholarship recipient at UT, Moorman Feeds stayed in touch with me as a UT student because of the 4-H Congress experience. Today, I am still friends with my Congress travelers.
National 4-H Congress in Atlanta is different from Chicago. However, location does not affect the impact Congress has on its participants. They will experience new things, make new friends, serve others and great speakers will inspire them to do more.
In the past four months I have had the opportunity to speak with several other state 4-H leaders. Some have said that National 4-H Congress is just another 4-H trip and is nothing special. I think most Tennessee 4-Hers would differ with them. There is no doubt in my mind that National 4-H Congress is the “most” special trip they will have taken.