Threads, sewing needles and trips to fabric and thrift stores are all Sophia and Olivia Rome need to prepare for the Carver County Fair.
The 16-year-old twin fashionistas of Chanhassen have competed every year in the 4-H Fashion Revue, since they were eight. The fashion competition has three categories that judges participants on clothing they have constructed; pieces they have purchased over the year and their overall wardrobes.
What participants bring and make is up to them, said Jessica Boresma, a 4-H volunteer.
“It all really depends on the personable preference, it’s the clothes they want to wear to church or school or tops, dresses, shawls. Whatever their personal preference is,” she said, adding that they can also make swimsuits, pajamas, jumpsuits and dresses.
Participants are judged based on the skills they learned and how well the outfit is made and at the county level, competition can be tough.
This year there are 15 others in Carver County competing, so the twins decided to challenge their sewing skills.
Sophia made a bright yellow wrap dress, a bold statement piece for the teen who strives to have versatile clothing. The idea came up after a friend suggested she create a piece with a color that she doesn’t have in her closet — yellow.
“I thought why not make a yellow wrap dress,” she said.
The process included sewing a rigid white lining against the yellow, semi-transparent stretchy fabric of her dress and making a sash of the same fabric.
Olivia decided to sew together a silk blouse after she was inspired by one that Sophia had in her closet.
The feat turned out to be a lot more difficult than she first expected.
“I never knew how slippery silk fabric could be until I sewed this,” she said, adding that she had to sew much of it by hand.
While the two like to compete, they also appreciate the camaraderie among their fellow 4-H’ers.
“It can be competitive, but everyone is really supportive,” Olivia said. “We’re always complimenting one another.”
“We are all friends,” Sophia added.
Overall, there are 430 Carver County 4-H members with projects ranging from livestock to photography or the performing arts.
“I think our biggest goal is to make new connections. I know there’s a lot of kids here, who wouldn’t meet their friends in other parts of the county without 4-H,” said Carley Vinkemeier, 4-H Program Coordinator at the University of Minnesota Extension Office, which is located in Cologne.
Numbers have been steady over the years, as the University of Minnesota Extension Office workers reach out to families and host camping and summer activities and encourage children and teens to join 4-H groups.
There’s also a number of children in the county who don’t have access to activities such as theater through their schools and others are homeschooled, such as the Rome twins. So 4-H works to bring those opportunities to all in the county.
The livestock side of 4-H has also changed over the years. Now, the Extension Office works with farmers in Carver County to lease out their poultry, pigs or cattle to children who may not have farms.
The most popular is the llama group. That has over 100 children competing, many of which lease their llamas out from Carlson’s Llovable Llamas in Waconia. That pulls a lot of participants from Chaska, Chanhassen and Victoria.
Diane Polzin, now operations coordinator at the Carver County Fair, said she still talks to friends she made decades ago in 4-H.
Those connections also helped her a lot, when she started her position at the fair earlier this year.
“It also helped me as there’s a lot of people who were in 4-H with me who are really involved with the fair. We knew each other when we were younger,” Polzin said. “I had a network before I started which was great.”
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