Sunny skies and summer solstice draws over 1,000 to Diamond M for 4-H...

While the days may be getting shorter once again, the summer solstice of 2012 will be memorable for being postcard perfect in many ways. While the longest day of the year often goes un-noticed outdoors on the Kenai Peninsula because it is usually cloaked in clouds accompanied by winds and rainy weather, Carrol and JoAnne Martin of the Diamond M Ranch thought that was a lame excuse not to celebrate the day and decided to throw a rain or shine summer solstice festival in their field with music and family fun for everyone. Maybe it was Mother Nature's way of saying congratulations to Carrol Martin for being the first Alaskan ever to be inducted into the 4-H Hall of Fame or maybe it was a leap year reprieve from the reality that the days are getting shorter again. Either way over a thousand folks took advantage of the sunny, warm day to turn out in t-shirts, flip flops and shorts to enjoy the free festival while supporting 4-H in our local community.

"Carrol has over 63 years of service to this community and 4-H," according to 4-H director Jason Floyd, "He will be going back to Chevy Chase Maryland this fall with other Hall of Fame inductees to be honored and I think a lot of folks came out to congratulate and thank him for his service," he said. While the event was free there were plenty of vendors selling their wares, foods, and opportunities to win prizes with proceeds going to support local 4-H projects, "It was a gorgeous day and a tremendous turn out and we thank the people for coming to support 4-H because it's a great organization for our young people and their families. We also wanted to pay tribute to Carrol for being chosen for the 4-H Hall of Fame and thought this would be a perfect way to do that and the perfect day was a bonus," said president of the 4-H Council Forrest Nelson.

In an interview with the Dispatch Martin recalled his first 4-H project, "I had a 4-H steer when I was nine years old in Durango, Colorado and my cattle here today are descendents of that 4-H project. I brought them up with me on a barge and they are still producing championship stock. Through the years my 4-H projects have paid my way through college. I got through graduate school because of a scholarship, but I'll tell you that 4-H will take you anywhere you want to go accompanied with hard work, a good plan and of course good luck too," smiled Martin. 4-H had already been established on the Kenai Peninsula when the Martin's arrived but there was no Jr. Market Livestock program, "So we started the 4-H Market Livestock program that grew little by little and got bigger year after year and then 20 years later in 2006 when the Peninsula won the bid to host the worldwide Arctic Winter Games, we got buyers to donate $55,000 dollars of 4-H Jr. Market Livestock pork, beef, and lamb to feed the best athletes in the northern hemisphere who came here to compete and we still here comments that we had the best food in the history of the Games and that was thanks to the 4-H program, it's leaders and the families involved," said Martin.