Summer solstice might not have started out with the sunny skies that guarantee large crowds for outdoor events on the Central Peninsula, but the Diamond M Ranch summer solstice 4-H fund raiser doesn’t need such guarantees. By late afternoon thousands had already picked out their spot in the pasture and were happily visiting the vendor booths, smelling the wood smoke, eating delicious things and dancing to live music of local bands. Though the night cars kept arriving and by 8:00pm the sun started to break through energizing the crowd to what became the largest Diamond M summer solstice event ever. 4-H took over the summer solstice event last year and UAF 4-H agent Jason Floyd thought it would be a good idea to have the event be a fund raiser for 4-H by making everything free, even the vendor booths, “It’s been a huge success and I don’t know where to park everyone, pretty soon the lamas won’t have any place left. We have 50 vendors here with 13 different food booths, the National Guard climbing wall, Jumpin’ Junction and the greatest music anywhere,” a busy Floyd told the Dispatch in a quick interview.
In addition to free admission and vendor space Floyd said three to four thousand dollars worth of door prizes were given away, “That’s how we kept an official attendance count, everyone was given a door prize ticket and we had drawings throughout the evening,” he said, “The business community really turned out in spades donating outstanding prizes and we really appreciated it.” So with no admission, no vendor fees, and thousands of dollars of give-a-ways how are funds raised to support 4-H? “Just voluntary donations from the crowd. It’s a chance for us to showcase the multitude of programs that 4-H has throughout the year at our information booth. The Diamond M Ranch is like the home of 4-H on the Peninsula and has been for decades, so it’s a perfect setting. Carrol Martin is a member of the 4-H Hall of Fame and his wife Joanne is the retired extension agent. I can’t tell you how many folks told us they appreciate the laid back, family, alcohol and drug free atmosphere. They tell us it’s unique, chill and refreshing and the more they learn about 4-H the more they express their appreciation with donations of support for the event. It’s tremendously successful for us and we want people to know that 4-H is a vehicle for producing tomorrow’s leaders today,” said Floyd. 4-H is 100% volunteers and Floyd says with the growth of the solstice event they are going to be needing a lot more of those volunteers for next year.
By the time the last song was sung and barbeque eaten on the longest day of the year over 2,500 had joined the 4-H fun at Diamond M., Floyd hopes that those who were exposed to 4-H for the first time will stop by the office on K-Beach Rd. and learn more. You can donate to 4-H on line by going to www.alaska4H.org and clicking on the Kenai District link.