- By Maggie Toeckes, Teton Co. 4-H.

On the morning of Thanksgiving, November 25, Justin Forseth and Maggie Toeckes boarded a plane to Atlanta, Georgia for National 4-H Congress. Both had won the opportunity at 4-H Congress in Bozeman back in July. Justin earned the trip by winning in the videography contest with a video about his family’s farm and Maggie won the Textile contest with a jacket and dress she had sewn. They joined 12 other students who were representing Montana.

After arriving in Atlanta, they stayed at the Hyatt Regency hotel where the event would take place. On Friday, November 26, the Montana delegation enjoyed a relaxed morning while other states arrived. Half of the delegation went to the Georgia Aquarium while the other half toured Atlanta’s Olympic Centennial Park. After the morning of sightseeing, the group ate their state lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe followed by getting their state picture taken back at the Hyatt.

The main event began that night with an assembly to welcome all 37 states and 1 territory in attendance and all 850 delegates from around the United States to Atlanta. The delegates learned some success strategies in reaching goals from John Beede followed by some icebreakers. Finally, the first night of this fun filled event concluded with state meetings as it would every night to come.

Saturday began with an opening assembly and the day was filled with 4 mega workshops with a break for lunch in between. Each workshop had about 200 delegates participating and included Speed Meeting, Expanding Horizons through Group Involvement, Service through Be the Change, and Home Baking. These inspiring mega workshops ended with an International Dinner and dance. The international dinner featured buffets from all over the world including China, Mexico, Italy, Egypt, England, Russia, and the United States to name a few. Each country had a staged set representing their culture while serving authentic cuisine. A dance followed the dinner and the Montana delegates were surprised and intrigued to see the different ways states swing danced and line danced. The multicultural and fun filled night ended with a state meeting.

Sunday opened with a flag ceremony introducing each state in the order they were added to the union. This was followed by a presentation from Manny Ohonme, the starter of Barefoot Legacies, who talked about his goal to put shoes on every child’s feet around the world. The afternoon was filled with some smaller and shorter workshops than Saturday’s mega workshops. There were 12 workshops to choose from and varied greatly in topics from yoga to science. One of the workshops Justin went to was UAS- RU READY where delegates learned about drones and Maggie went to Dancing with the Stars where she learned classic jazz swing dancing. The evening entailed another multicultural event. The delegates went to the Atlanta History Museum for a historic southern dinner where they got their first taste of Georgia peach cobbler. The delegates enjoyed comedy from Ron Anglin, a children’s clown who entertains children at Atlanta’s children’s hospital. This was followed with southern ballroom dancing, a Bluegrass band, and the evening concluded with West African dancing and music.

Monday began bright and early with community service around Atlanta. The delegates were split into several groups going to various places around the city. After the service was finished and lunch was eaten the Montana delegation went on the Hotlanta’s World-Class Attractions bus tour around Atlanta. The highlight of the tour was the visiting of the World of Coca Cola where the delegates got to try every coke product made and sold all around the world. While most were tasty, a few were really awful. But the exciting day wasn’t over until the formal gala and dance that night. Dressed in their prom formals, the delegates enjoyed an elaborate dinner and a visit from Santa Clause. Montana continued to hold its own in the line dances and variations of swing dances that followed. The late night ended with packing for the day of travel to come.

Tuesday began with a speech from Dan Clark (motivational speaker) inspiring delegates to take what they had learned on this trip back to their communities in their own states. This message also ended the 2021 National 4-H Congress and delegates said their goodbyes. Pin trading amongst the states had been popular throughout the entire trip and any pins that had yet to be

traded were given away. The Montana delegation traveled back to the Atlanta airport where their fun had begun and started the trip home. Justin and Maggie were welcomed back to Montana with winds so strong the walkway to get off the plane couldn’t be pulled up.

For Maggie the best part of the trip was meeting people from around the country. From watching a young woman from Puerto Rico Salsa dance to hearing a variety of southern accents, she really enjoyed each of the people she met. Justin’s favorite parts all involved the people he met - both in the Montana delegation and the super friendly people from around the country. Bonding over squeezing lots of people into elevators and dancing, the 4-Hers were just really great people. Both Maggie & Justin will forever remember the trip as an exciting and wonderful experience and will cherish the many friendships made from across the United States.

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