November 28 to December 2, 2014
I hope you’re just as excited for Congress as I am. My name is Christopher Fink and I attended Congress as a delegate last year and this year I am on the Design Team, which plans and facilitates Congress each year. I’m sure you have questions about what to pack, who you will meet, and the different events you’ll be attending—and I’ll get there, but first a word of advice. Go into Congress with an open mind. I know people say to go into everything with an open mind, but that’s especially true for you as a Congress delegate. You are going to be exposed to a different culture, to the diversity that our entire country has to offer, you’ll try new foods, you’ll meet people with wildly different accents, and that’s just what I am guaranteeing you. It takes your own willingness and excited attitude to make Congress an unforgettable and entirely unique experience. It’s great to make friends with your fellow 4-Hers, but don’t forget to go out and meet someone from the others states, such as Kansas or Wisconsin, or try the Chinese or Greek food, or make it a habit to introduce yourself to everyone on the elevators. That’s what made Congress the best experience of my life; I was willing to venture into uncharted territory. I certainly didn’t go into Congress thinking I would apply for the Design Team, but left with a filled out application and a ready-to-do-more attitude.
At our last face-to-face meeting, the Design Team made these really fun videos that perfectly outlined everything you’d be doing and told you what to pack, but due to some technology lapses and a deleted memory card, those are long gone! Starting with what to pack, the handbook and instructions they give you are actually very good as to what you should pack. My only advice, they say a lot of the events are casual, do not take this too literally. This is still a national event with lots of professionals and important people, so do not show up in your rattiest t-shirt and jeans. Definitely wear something comfortable and easy, but don’t take advantage of the word casual! The formal dinner is very suave and sophisticated, so please plan appropriately. This is one of those things where you cannot be over-dressed, but you can be under-dressed. Otherwise, just follow the guide provided and rock your own style. There is a small note in the handbook that mentions not wearing hats, this event is almost exclusively indoors, so I will reemphasize, do not wear your hats during the workshops, at dinner, mostly just don’t wear them at Congress.
I’m sure you are all counting down the days you get to travel to Atlanta for a week and you are completely anxious for November 28th to come, so I figured I’d add to that anxiety and give you some fun details about what to expect. First of all, it is going to be overwhelming. Like super overwhelming. DO NOT WORRY. Everyone is super friendly and just as excited to meet new people and introduce themselves. The very first day, we have some great ice-breakers and mixers planned so you can easily meet people from the other side of the country. The first day is when I met people who I am still friends with to this day, but get ready to explain where you are from, your 4-H projects, your family, your city, basically everything; it’s all new and interesting to people who don’t know anything about PA (or any other state for that matter). The workshops are absolutely world-renowned (there just might be a familiar face at one of the workshops), the speakers are life-changing, and we may have a few celebrities coming your way (you’ll find out soon enough who that may be!) There is an evening of culture at the Atlanta History Museum (super interactive, extremely interesting, delicious meal this night as well), an International night (there is a dance, performances, and some of the most delicious food you have ever eaten from all over the place), and a service-learning opportunity (so eye-opening, so much fun, just a great experience overall).
I could ramble on for pages about Congress because I love it just that much, but I’ll save that for after Congress when you know exactly why I ramble! I hope this helped get you excited and prepared for Congress, it’s going to be life-changing so get ready! Please email, text, call, tweet, Facebook, fax (don’t do that, I don’t think I know how that works), or talk to me when you see me if you have any more questions, I’m more than happy to answer them. It’s just over a month away, and I hope you are as excited as I am! Please come up and chat when you see me, that’s seriously my favorite thing in the world.
See you in November!
Christopher “Critter” Fink
National 4-H Congress Design Team
The history of the National 4-H Congress goes back more than eighty years. An educational tour to Chicago was the forerunner to what would eventually become known as National 4-H Congress. This annual tour was held in the Union Stock Yards during the International Livestock Exposition. There, over 100 young men and women met to exchange ideas and receive recognition for individual accomplishments and community service.
The number of participants steadily grew, and by 1922 this annual event was designated the National Boys and Girls Club Exposition. This meeting is officially considered the first National 4-H Youth Congress.
Exhibits, demonstrations and a popular parade became the annual program for 4-H during the International Livestock Exposition. For 73 years, National 4-H Congress gave over 100,000 delegates, Extension staff, volunteers, partner representatives, exhibitors and other friends of 4-H the opportunity to participate in a special event. There was no National 4-H Congress in 1995, but two invitational events were hosted by the Southern Region and Western Region states. 1996 saw the rebirth of National 4-H Congress in Memphis under the leadership of the Extension Service – USDA. Memphis was the home of National 4-H Congress until the event moved to Atlanta in 1998.
Taken from the 2006 Congressional Record, University of Tennessee