OSCEOLA COUNTY — 4-H appears to be gaining popularity in Osceola County, as the number of youth joining the fun this summer has increased since 2013.

As of March 1, 474 members between the ages of 5 and 19 are enrolled in 4-H this year, compared to last year's 456, and Osceola County 4-H Coordinator Jake Steig is expecting more to sign up in the coming month.

"It's a great feeling to get more youth involved in 4-H programs," Steig said. "I think we're seeing an increase because the youth are spreading the word and I'm trying to get the message out to a larger audience."

Apart from word-of-mouth, Stieg has been participating in a Michigan State University Extension 4-H Science Blast program within Evart Public Schools and Reed City Area Public Schools, which provides 4-H awareness and hands-on science activities regarding animal, plant and environmental science to K-12 students.

In addition to the members, there are 29 4-H clubs and 85 trained volunteers participating for the 2014 fair season.

"Without volunteers our program would not be successful," Stieg added. "Volunteers and youth are what drives the 4-H program."

Three new clubs also have emerged, including a llama club called Wooly Llamas, a horse club called Silver Spurs and a miniature horse club called Mini Hoofbeats. In addition, two new programs, Osceola County 4-H Horseless Horse and the Mecosta/Osceola Proud Equestrian Program, are being launched in April.

Now, Stieg is working on preparation, planning and booking judges for the Marion Fair from June 23 to 28, and for the Osceola County 4-H FFA Fair from July 27 to Aug. 2.

"It's all about making sure we're prepared and this year is better than last year," he said. "I'm looking forward to a fun-filled fair season."