Iowa 4-H Youth Excel in Communications Events at the Iowa State Fair

October 2, 2023, 2:10 pm | Sydney Peterson, Gail Castillo

AMES, Iowa – Over 750 youth from 95 counties participated in the 2023 Iowa State Fair 4-H communications events held Aug. 10-20. Youth had the opportunity to show in the educational presentations, working exhibits, Share-the-Fun, extemporaneous speaking or communications posters categories.

The communication events program allows youth to showcase their written, oral and visual communication skills; develop self-confidence through presenting to judges; practice self-expression and creativity; and learn how to organize and present information.

vocal duet at Share-the-Fun at the Iowa State Fair.“When a former 4-H member is asked, ‘What did you gain through 4-H that has made the most impact on your career success?’ the skill most often mentioned is public speaking,” said Gail Castillo, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4-H Exhibits Building superintendent. “The Iowa 4-H communication events program is the state-level culminating event for 4-H members across the state. 4-H members must be selected from a county communications event to participate in this event.”

All 4-H educational presentation, working exhibit, and extemporaneous speaking participants received certificates of recognition and written evaluation comments. Seals of merit were presented to those giving outstanding presentations. Seals of excellence will be presented to those giving superior presentations. Share-the-Fun participants received participation ribbons and a written critique of their performance.

“Communication skills and activities are built into every project. Doing a demonstration for fellow club members, presenting to outside groups and interviewing are common activities for 4-H members of all ages,” said Castillo. “The ability to clearly communicate an idea to others is powerful because it drives all aspects of day-to-day life. It is a necessary skill that will help you reach many goals in life. Mastering this skill during your 4-H career will give you the advantages needed to succeed after graduation from high school and make positive change in your community.”

“I love participating in Iowa 4-H communications events because I enjoy sharing what I am passionate about, showcasing my talents and meeting new people who share my passions,” said Kolby Oldenkamp from Sioux County. “Most importantly, I know that communications events will prepare me for my future career path, whatever it may be. Communication is key in every aspect of life, so it is critical to me to grow those skills from a young age.”

“Although public speaking and performing may seem intimidating to some, 4-H communication events can help prepare youth for success in school and future careers. Communication events are uniquely challenging, and I believe all 4-H members can benefit from trying them at some point along their 4-H journey,” Oldenkamp said.

Educational presentations

Educational presentations provide an opportunity for 4-H members in grades 5-12 to demonstrate communication skills by presenting knowledge, information or a process to an audience. This year, 270 youth presented educational topics ranging from flower arrangements, suspensory ligament tears in horses and the history of Ty Beanie Babies to how dogs enhance mental health and well-being, caring for a bottle-fed elk and VEXIQ robotics.

Working exhibits

Working exhibits provide an opportunity for 4-H members in grades 5-12 to communicate, interact with and teach an audience informally and experientially. This year, 166 youth gave working exhibits ranging in topics from making a sheep halter, stress relief balloons, and corn-on-the-cob Santa ornaments to making seed bombs, ice cream in a bag and saving pop tabs.

4-H youth performs a song on guitar at Share-the-Fun show at Iowa State Fair. Share-the-Fun

Share-the-Fun provides an opportunity for 4-H members in grades 5-12 to share their skills and talents before an audience purely for the sake of enjoyment. This event helps encourage 4-H youth to discover and develop their talents and have opportunities to share those gifts with others. Youth prepare and perform skits, songs, stunts, short one-act plays, dance and other entertainment. This year, there were nearly 150 performances by youth with a variety of talents, including vocal solos and duets, instrumental solos, flamenco, hip-hop, lyrical and clog dances, prose readings, speeches and poetry, club skits, gymnastics, baton twirling and even rabbit agility.

Extemporaneous speaking

The extemporaneous speaking event encourages youth in grades 9-12 to develop on-the-spot communication skills by providing an opportunity to think, organize thoughts, prepare a speech and respond to questions when given a limited preparation time. Participants draw three available topics and select one to speak on, in which they get 30 minutes to prepare a four-to-six-minute speech. Once their speech is complete, five minutes of additional time are allowed for related questions from the audience. Fifty-two 4-H youth participated in the extemporaneous speaking event this year.

Communications posters

Communications posters allow 4-H members in grades 5-12 to use their creativity and design skills to visually tell a story or idea about 4-H to the general public. Exhibitors choose one of five themes to design their posters around. This year’s themes were 4-H is … (open to 4-H members’ interpretation), Join 4-H, Opportunity 4 All (2022 National 4-H Week theme), Spy Your Potential (2023 Iowa 4-H Youth Conference theme), or Best Days Ever in 4-H (variation of the Iowa State Fair theme).

To view all the results of this year’s communication events, please visit and sort by division to choose which event you wish to see.

Iowa 4-H communications events are important for youth in developing their communication and public speaking skills. For more information on the Iowa 4-H Youth Development program, please contact your local county ISU Extension and Outreach office or visit the Iowa 4-H website at

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