Every summer, as they’ve done for 100 years, young people across Oregon descend on Oregon State’s campus for a life-changing experience — the 4-H Summer Conference. The camp is believed to have hosted its first group of campers around 1917. In its earliest years, it was known as Summer Week. Similar to 4-H summer programs across the nation, it was created to bring youth together from across the state to learn new skills and build relationships with peers and adults.
The camp’s earliest days were much like traditional camp, with droves of boys and girls hunkering down in sleeping bags on the floors of a building at the Oregon Agricultural College. Back then, students chose tracks of study, such as livestock or food and spent class time on those areas.
By the 1940s, the camps became known as 4-H Summer School, and the curriculum had evolved to include a variety of course offerings. Boys and girls could participate in everything from flower arranging to hunting safety. With few options for summer activities, many of these students came from rural areas to Corvallis, allowing a change of scenery and a taste of college life.
In 1990, the camp became known as Summer Days and transitioned from a weeklong experience to a four-day camp. A major milestone came in 2001 with another name change — 4-H Summer Conference — and absorption of the 4-H Ambassador Weekend, which was previously held at Linfield College in McMinnville. It made sense to house both programs on Oregon State’s campus to emphasize the connection between OSU and 4-H Extension. Faculty and staff from various academic departments were sought out to offer classes to expose participants to various career choices.
What remains the same from the early days to today is that 4-H Summer Conference creates lifelong memories and lasting impressions and has inspired countless future Beavers. For more information or to sign up for the 4-H Summer Conference, go to health.oregonstate.edu/4h-summer-conference.
Share your memories
Are you a former 4-H summer camper of recent or many years past? We are collecting stories and pictures for our centennial celebration and we would love to hear and see yours. Share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special thanks to the Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, from which photos and key information were obtained.