Darrell Huckaby - 03/06/09
4-H Club

The 4-H Club has been around a while - close to a hundred years, in fact - and its roots are deeply entrenched in Newton County. We won't go into the history of the organization right now, but it is a long and storied one. You might have been a member of 4-H yourself at one time or another. Most of us were - but even if you don't know that the "H's" in 4-H are health, head, heart and hands, you are probably aware of at least some of the club's functions.

Maybe you showed rabbits as a child, like my daughter Jamie did when she was in 4-H, or horses, like my other daughter, Jenna - or cows, like my son Jackson. Or maybe you went to Rock Eagle, the state 4-H center for summer camp or a school trip or some function totally unrelated to the organization itself.

I seem to remember a Christian Life Conference weekend that I attended there in the 1960s, but I won't comment on anything that happened there because I am not sure if the statute of limitations ever runs out on certain activities.

So we have established the fact that we all know a little something about 4-H. Well, in three or four minutes - depending on how fast you read - I hope that you know a lot more.

The 4-H Club is still around - and it ain't just about rabbits and cows anymore - and truth be known, never was. The organization has always been about young people and helping them explore their talents and abilities and encouraging them to become active and successful adults. That's a right worthy goal, and they have done a heck of a job, too.

About 28 years ago, give or take a song here or a dance there - Georgia 4-H, in keeping with the organization's tradition of helping young people develop their talents and abilities, created a musical troupe called Clovers & Co. The group consisted of girls and boys - singers, dancers, musicians - all of whom were very talented and shared a love of and enthusiasm for entertaining.

I spoke recently with a member of the original group, Katrina Bowers, who now works for the school of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia, hallowed be thy name. She shared with me that she and the other original Clovers wore simple costumes that their mothers sewed for them and were excited to get a chance to perform for anyone who would invite them.

Well, Clovers & Co. has come a long way baby. Now they are a nationally acclaimed group that travels all across the nation and entertains thousands of people every year. The group claims many distinguished alumna, in addition to Katrina, of course, who have used their Clovers days as a springboard to a career in the performing arts. Crisp County's Jim Phillips became a Broadway dancer. Nikki DeLoach became a Mouseketeer and television star. Jennifer Nettles is an award-winning vocalist with the red hot band, Sugarland, and Hillary Lindsey, a four-year cast member from Washington, Ga., is a Grammy-winning songwriter who has written hits like "Jesus Take the Wheel" by Carrie Underwood, "This One's for the Girls," by Martina McBride, and "Three Mississippi," by Terri Clark - as well as songs recorded by Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Keith Urban, Trisha Yearwood - you get the picture. The girl is a big fish in Nashville, Tenn., which is about the biggest pond a songwriter can swim in.

This year's Clovers & Co. group consists of 42 of the most talented young people - ranging in age from 11 to 19 - that you'd ever hope to see - or hear - assembled in one place, and some of their names are certain to become known throughout the households of this nation, too.

I know what you are thinking. "How can I get to hear this group in person?" Well, I am a comin' to that. On Saturday evening, March 21, at 7:30 p.m., the group, for the first time ever, will be holding a benefit performance that is open to the public. The show will be held at the Talmadge Auditorium, at Rock Eagle. That's right. Everyone is invited, so y'all come. You will see this year's show, "Turn up the Music," a high-energy set that will leave your brain humming and your toe tapping all the way home. That ain't all. Grammy winner Hillary Lindsey will perform, too - and will be on hand for pictures and autographs afterward.

And I'll be there, too. I am honored to have been asked to emcee the event and will share some of my humorous stories about life in the South - some of which may even be true. I'll be signing books afterward - I hope.

Tickets range from $15 to $25 and can be purchased in advance by calling 706-542-4444 or Googling Clovers & Co. and following the links.

What a bargain! Me, Hillary Lindsey, Clovers & Co. and a chance to, perhaps, revisit the scene of old crimes - and support a worthy cause; and any investment in these young people will pay rich dividends - I guarantee it. Katrina Bowers might even be there.

So treat yourself to a special night out and order those tickets today. You can thank me as you leave the auditorium that night. I'll be the good-looking guy in the red shirt - standing next to some of the finest young people on Earth.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.