“It was peaceful and everyone was very kind, and it was quiet,” Runne said. “It was only a little different (than the United States) because most everyone spoke Finnish, but most people also spoke English.”
Runne said a friend encouraged her to take the trip.
“I thought I wanted to go somewhere in the world, and out of the choices it was Costa Rica, South Korea, Finland and Japan,” Runne said. “I never heard of Finland, and I thought, ‘That’s where I want to go.’”
Runne also entered mixed media and art projects for this year’s fair.
Runne has been involved with 4-H for about six years, forming friendships and learning several valuable skills since joining the organization.
“I like the community it grows, because you can literally go anywhere and there will be someone from 4-H,” Runne said. “It also teaches you things that I don’t think school could teach you.”
Runne said she plans to go on another 4-H exchange trip next year.
“That’s my hope for the future,” Runne said. “I like a lot of Europe. Maybe I will go to Norway as part of next year’s exchange program.”
Many other area 4-H members submitted projects for this year’s fair, which will be held Wednesday through Sunday, Aug. 16-20, at the Winnebago County Fairgrounds in Pecatonica.
Stacy Cwiklo, program coordinator for the University of Illinois-Extension Winnebago County 4-H, estimated that about 1,000 projects were submitted and already judged on Aug. 4.
Cwiklo said 4-H project categories include robotics, computer science, photography, visual arts, horticulture, citizenship, woodworking and food.
“It’s just not cows and cookies anymore,” Cwiklo said. “It’s more robotics and computer science and photography and geospatial and electronics. Everyone thinks it’s all about agriculture, but it’s about everything else that teaches life skills.”
Autumn Sottile, 12, of Rockford, submitted about 35 projects for this year’s fair, including a geospatial drawing of improvements she would like to see at Midway Village & Museum Center, where she serves as a re-enactor for several of the museum’s events.
Sottile indicated that she would like the museum center to add more heating and cooling areas, garbage cans and food stands. She said she plans to present her ideas to the museum center in the future.
Sottile said the projects kept her busy throughout the summer, but she is pleased with the results.
“All of them have been blue (ribbons) so far,” Sottile said. “I’ve still got about 10 of them to go (to be judged).”
Sottile has been involved with 4-H for about four years. She said she has learned skills that will help her in the future.
“I like that I learn new things,” Sottile said. “That’s what 4-H is all about. I also can see what I might be interested in for a career. I like how it will give me more opportunities in the future.”
Davey Lyons, 14, of Winnebago, completed a computer science program measuring how fast his CPU and graphic card work. Lyons said his father helped spark his interest in computers.
“I’ve always been interested in computers and stuff like that,” Lyons said. “I’ve done computer science for a couple of years, so now I’m doing the more advanced programming classes. I just sort of picked (computers) up from (my dad), and I’ve always been good with computers and it comes really natural for me.”
Lyons also submitted robotics and rifle projects. Lyons has been involved with 4-H for about five years and said he has enjoyed working on different projects.
“It’s a great learning experience,” Lyons said. “It’s one of the bigger (fairs). It’s also fun to see what other people are doing. It’s a great learning experience, and I get to meet new people.”
Sam Kiest, 14, of Stillman Valley, presented a diagram of a lake trout and the types of lures that people could use to catch a lake trout. Kiest said it took him about two days to complete the diagram, which he developed because of his interest in fishing.
“(Fishing) is peaceful. When you catch a fish, it’s exciting,” Kiest said. “I just thought I would do a diagram on the anatomy of a fish.”
Kiest has been involved with 4-H for about three years, submitting projects on vegetables, gardening, woodworking and bicycling.
“I think (4-H) is fun,” Kiest said. “You get to do a lot of interesting things.”
Sandi Andresen of Rockford will be judging robotic and electronic projects this year, having been a judge for about six years. She has been impressed with the types of projects that 4-H members come up with.
“The robots are doing different things. Some pick up things. Others will be programmed to follow a course,” Andresen said. “It’s just fascinating to see how these kids progress, how they grow from year to year. So many of the projects are so challenging. I get a kick out of seeing what the kids do.”
Barb Frampton is judging veterinarian projects.
“(The projects) are excellent. I saw one about cancer in dogs and another one about animal acupuncture,” Frampton said. “The kids do a great job. I just wish that 4-H was publicized more and that more people were aware of everything that 4-H offers.”
Cwiklo also said she is impressed.
“There’s a lot of creativity. There’s a lot of innovation. There’s a lot of cool things,” Cwiklo said. “We hope a lot of people come out and take a look and see what 4-H members are up to and see what the difference is from last year.
“Some of these kids started out with a simple, little drawing and now they’re sculpting art,” she added. “It’s amazing, so I’m proud of them.”
Cwiklo said 4-H membership in Winnebago County has increased by about 30 children this year.
For more information, contact the Winnebago County Extension office at 815-986-4357.
At a glance
• What: 96th annual Winnebago County Fair
• Where: Fairgrounds, 500 W. First St., Pecatonica, Illinois
• When: Aug. 16 through Aug. 20
•FYI: Ticket prices, other details available at www.winnebagocountyfair.com.