Moffat County High school seniors Layne Behrman and Brady Haskins know how unpleasant it can be feeding their steers well before the sun rises in the dead of winter.
But those thoughts were far from the minds of the two 4-H students during the 11th annual 4-H district retreat last weekend. The event, which gathers 4-Hers from a seven-county area, offers members from 8 to 18 a chance to mingle and a break from a year of working hard with livestock.
The group of 177 spent a three-day weekend at Craig's Holiday Inn involved in a host of activities: from rock climbing to listening to motivational speakers.
"You're cursing the (4-H program) around January when it's 15 below zero, but it's well worth it to come here," Haskins said. "I like it because it gets me out of the house for a whole weekend without my parents. There are some people that you don't see all year except for here."
4-Hers generally buy an animal in the spring like a sheep or cow to raise for show or slaughter and present it at the summertime county fair.
Feeding and caring for a steer, which can gain up to 700 pounds in a year, can take up most all of one's free time, Behrman said.
"It's a lot of work but I love it," he said.
"You have to feed them every morning and every night which can take a half hour to two hours," Haskins added. "With a job and school, that can eat up your time all day, every day."
4-H offers get-togethers and trips all year long, but not all students are able to make the events, said Brita Horn a leader of the Flattop 4-H Club.
However, the district retreat is one that many 4-Hers aim to attend, she said.
"This is their reward for feeding lambs twice a day," she said. "It's a great social atmosphere."
Planners offer the event to a wide age range to continue with the group's motto of leadership and to keep younger members interested.
"When children get to a certain age they think it's not cool anymore to be in 4-H," said Deb Alpe, Routt County's Colorado State University Extension Agent. "This helps keeps kids interested."
The three-day weekend kept 4-Hers busy with a variety of sporting events around Craig and events at the hotel. Some 4-H members from the different counties of Moffat, Routt, Grand, Jackson, Eagle and Rio Blanco were visibly pleased to meet up with acquaintances they hadn't seen since a previous group function.
"It's nice to see them stretch their boundaries a little bit," Horn said. "In the rural areas we don't have a lot of nationalities out here. This gives (4-Hers) a good chance to meet up with other people."
Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.