Evergreen State Fair to honor 43-year 4-H volunteer

Pam Phelps has been in lots of parades. She rode horses as a girl at a riding academy in north Seattle. After moving to Snohomish County, she helped with 4-H youth horse programs. On Saturday, she’ll ride in the Monroe Fair Days Parade — but not on a horse.

As the 2014 Evergreen State Fair Honoree, the 70-year-old Clearview woman will ride in a convertible.

Each year, the Evergreen State Fair honors one among hundreds of volunteers whose devotion of time and energy has made a mark on the county’s end-of-summer party.

Phelps has been a 4-H leader for 43 years. For every one of those years, she has been at the Evergreen State Fair. She is now superintendent of the fair’s Natural Sciences Department. And with WSU Snohomish County Extension, she is a 4-H Natural Resources leader.

On Thursday, Phelps will be honored at the fair’s opening day ceremony and will cut the ribbon for the 12-day event. For the run of the fair, she’ll spend long days in Building 501, the 4-H Building. She will spend nights in a travel trailer on the fairgrounds.

“She’s just the sweetest person,” said Sherry Stovner, the fair’s superintendent coordinator. “Wherever she is, if she sees a need or somebody struggling, she steps right in and helps.”

Phelps said Monday that her involvement with 4-H began after she married and moved to the Clearview area. A neighbor, who had children in the 4-H horse program, asked her to help. Later, her own son and daughter were active in 4-H. They are grown, but Phelps has stayed on to lead generations of 4-H kids. She has helped with the fair’s cats program and in many other ways.

Phelps meets with her Natural Resources 4-H group once a month at the extension office at McCollum Park in Everett. There are kids in the group ages 6 to 18. “The older ones learn to help the younger ones,” she said.

Children in the Natural Resources program learn about wildlife, outdoor safety, orienteering and other topics.

“Last year, a young man brought in a baby snake. This year, it was an aquarium with spiders. I’ve seen everything,” she said.

Jana Ferris, an educator with WSU Snohomish County Extension’s 4-H Youth Development Department, said Phelps encourages children in the Natural Resources program to participate in the fair. “She can always be counted on to be there and to help things go smoothly,” Ferris said.

There are now about 1,900 young people, ages 5 to 19, involved in 4-H in Snohomish County and nearly 500 volunteers. Ferris said only about 30 percent of local 4-H programs are focused on agriculture. A technology program includes hardware, software and robotics. Along with cooking and sewing, 4-H also offers photography, mechanical science, public speaking and many other programs.

“We are willing to use whatever interest a child has,” Ferris said. “Projects are tools for kids to learn decision-making, time management, all the life skills we need when we grow up.”

At the fair, Phelps sees problem-solver as her biggest role. “Whatever it is, I just tell kids, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ ” she said.

One year, a little boy in her 4-H group was in tears when he and his mom arrived at the fair. “He had made an 8-foot shark out of butcher paper. It was stuffed and stapled together,” Phelps said. On the drive from Marysville to Monroe, a fin on the shark had ripped.

“I had a real fishing net from something I had done in a prior year. I cut it and put the shark in it, and raised it to the ceiling facing the front door,” Phelps said. “That shark got a blue ribbon, a viewer’s choice rosette and a creative award.”

At an age when most people are retired, Phelps isn’t about to give up her 4-H or fair duties.

“It’s what keeps me going,” she said. “The kids bring me back every year.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Learn about 4-H

For information about 4-H youth programs in Snohomish County go to http://ext100.wsu.edu/snohomish/4h/ or call 425-357-6044

More in Local News

Residents are helping turn Casino Road in a new direction

An initiative backed by a $700,000 grant goes to the community for solutions to the area’s challenges.

It’s hard to find a parking spot at Wallace Falls State Park

There’s a study under way on how to tackle that issue and others.

At long last, a church of his own

After years of filling in elsewhere, Hallack Greider is the new pastor at Maplewood Presbyterian.

Judge: Lawmakers’ emails, texts subject to public disclosure

News organizations had sued to challenge the Legislature’s claim that members were exempt.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s top images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

Number of flu-related deaths in county continues to grow

Statewide, 86 people have died from the flu, most of whom were 65 or older.

2 names released from recent fatal crashes

Both men were killed earlier this month.

Man fatally shot in confrontation with deputies under US 2

No word yet on what led to the incident under the trestle east of Everett.

With an immigrant’s help, kids reach out to Filipino children

Marysville students drew and sent portraits. Thanks to a video, they got to see the reaction.

Most Read