About 100 years ago, Esther Anderson formed the Tip Top Sewing Club of Niwot, and the town’s long relationship with 4-H was born. Over the decades, the local group has gone through various iterations, including the Niwot Calf Rustlers (ca. 1939), the Niwot Left Hand Challengers (1948-51), and the Niwot Needlers and Nibblers (1965-72), to name a few. For the past four decades, the club had been known as the Niwot Nifties, and they just wrapped up a highly successful stint at the 2019 Boulder County Fair.
The Niwot Nifties is one of 25 4-H clubs active in Boulder County. 4-H got its start in 1902 as a school agricultural club in Ohio, and now bills itself as the nation’s largest youth development organization, with nearly six million participants. With the support of Cooperative Extension System and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the organization emphasizes the development of leadership skills through “hands-on projects in areas like health, science, agriculture and civic engagement.”
Currently, there are 22 members of the Niwot Nifties, ranging in ages from eight to 17. Each fall, participants choose up to four comprehensive “projects” in animal care or general arts/sciences that they complete over several months and then submit for judging the following summer at the BoCo Fair. Winners there are then eligible to compete in the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo later this month.
According to co-leader Mary Klingbeil, 2019 will go down as especially memorable for the Nifties.
“It was a good year,” Klingbeil said after the 10-day Fair wrapped up on Aug. 11. This year, Nifties submitted general entries in drawing, painting, ceramics, photography, outdoor adventures, cooking, decorating, archery, .22 rifle, and film, and 13 of those projects are advancing to Pueblo.
They also brought 46 chickens, four turkeys, one cavy, two rabbits, and one “lease-a-goat,” for their animal care projects, where members choose one or more small animals to feed, water, and provide general care for, while carefully documenting their daily activities and needs. Older and more experienced participants may also choose to breed their animals, for another level of difficulty.
“This is just what our club is doing,” said Klingbeil, co-leader of the Nifties with Cindy Shepherd. “There are so many projects. So really, kids can navigate the whole 4-H program following their interests.”
In all, the Nifties picked up about two dozen ribbons and awards at the 150th BoCo Fair, including a Grand Champion in ceramics (Violet Byrnes-Scott), film (Zach Shepherd) and food preparation for Reese Duckworth’s banana bread, which was later sold at a live judge’s choice auction. Other winners for the week were:
Longtime Nifties member Eva Klingbeil also picked up a Grand Champion ribbon in poultry. Indeed, Klingbeil, who will be a sophomore at Niwot High, seems to have a way with chickens. She is also active with the Colorado Poultry Association, as well as Feather Fanciers of Colorado. She has been raising poultry for the past “five or six years,” and went all the way this year with a birchen modern game bantam, thanks to a little extra coaching.
“He’s a really nice bird, and he’s got really nice type compared to the other modern game bantams here,” she said. “He also posed for the judge really well, which is something they’re judged on. I used treats to get him to stretch his neck and show off his body, and it worked.”
Other poultry ribbon winners include Eva’s brother Ben Klingbeil; Tessa Everett, who also took fourth place in small animal round robin; Harrison Falborne, who received the Herdsman Award; August Falborne, champion turkey, and Wyatt Falborne, grand champion turkey. Eva and Ben also have general projects headed to Pueblo next month in drawing, painting and advanced photography. Other animal care winners were Everett, who received first and second place ribbons for her rabbit, Jax; Caroline Haller with a Reserve Champion ribbon for her guinea pig, Cookie; and Audrey Haller, who received fourth place in showmanship with her fiber goat, Stacey.
When the Nifties aren’t working on their individual projects, the group also engages in quite a bit of community service in the area. During the winter and Easter holidays, the Nifties make gift baskets and bags, which are delivered to the residents of Eagle Place in Niwot and Peaks Care Center in Longmont.
They also write letters to soldiers stationed overseas in their Military Mail program, and are a reliable source of volunteer labor for various community events, such as Niwot’s 4th of July and holiday parades.
The Nifties will take a few weeks off to recover from the hectic fair week, but they’ll be back at it in October, when members start choosing their new projects for the year. In the meantime, Mary Klingbeil is looking forward to getting a little rest.
“It can be hard to find balance during this crazy week,” she said. “But the kids just take away so many great things from it.”