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Riley Hlavac doesn’t live on a sprawling acreage or farm in Nebraska, but that isn’t stopping the Garrison native from raising a little bit of wildlife himself in the town comprised of approximately 60 people.

Hlavac, a 17-year-old senior-to-be at David City Public Schools, is in the process of completing a broiler chicken project for this year’s Butler County Fair, set for July 17-22, that highlights the life and growth cycle of 29 birds on his family’s in-town property.

“We got the chickens through the Butler County 4-H Program and several other people are completing similar projects,” Hlavac said. “Then this will be presented at the Butler County Fair next Thursday.”

It’s actually ironic that Hlavac’s broiler project comes toward the end of his 4-H career because an interest in chickens is what piqued his agricultural interest more than nine years ago.

“I’d always wanted to join 4-H to show a chicken at the fair, since I was like in pre-school,” he said. “We raised chickens at home and I had always wanted to do it through 4-H.”

Throughout the years, Hlavac has completed an assortment of 4-H projects that have helped him receive recognition and notoriety throughout the Butler County 4-H program, including his work with poultry and woodworking, photography, entomology – the science of insects – and more.

All of Hlavac’s hard work is paying off, and recently, he was honored by being named a member of the Fremont 4-H Expo royal court. The winner of the contest, he said, will be named during Butler County Fair. Youth from Dodge, Platte and Butler counties participate annually in the Fremont 4-H Expo, he said.

“I found out about the opportunity to be king toward the end of May when I received a letter from the Extension office in Butler County,” he said. “I had to write a letter explaining my 4-H experience and qualifications, along with my leadership skills and some of the things I’ve helped out with during the (Butler County) Fair.”

Being nominated for such a prestigious title caught Hlavac off guard.

“I hope to win, and I was really surprised when I got the letter in the mail,” Hlavac said. “Not many people from Butler County in the past that I know have won, or even been nominated. So it’s special and a real honor to be part of that.”

Although the title of king would be great, what Hlavac really has enjoyed this past year has been working on his broiler project in conjunction with a windmill project that will power electricity to a shed he’s erected in his family’s yard that houses the birds.

“It’s been laying in the junk pile for years and I decided to restore it partially,” he said of the 20-foot-tall windmill. “The goal is for it to eventually generate electricity for the chicken shed.

Hlavac said the chicken shed was transported to his family’s new property and repainted, re-roofed, re-doored and re-windowed. It will be judged next Wednesday in the Butler County Fair’s Woodworking division.

Katie Pleskac, extension educator for Butler County, said Hlavac has continually evolved throughout the years she’s known him.

“Riley has been one of our 4-H’ers for a long time now, and I’ve seen him grow quite a bit,” Pleskac said. “He’s kind of a quiet kid but as you get to know him he comes out of his shell. I’ve seen him participate in our Livestock Judging contest, and then was also on our 4-H council for two years. He has also taught different sessions at our 4-H Fun Day which is a camp for kids.”

Pleskac said she’s been impressed with the innovative principles he’s implemented into this year’s projects.

“He is kind of combining his passion for both those areas – poultry and wind power – into one bigger project that they can use around their yard in Garrison for years to come,” she said. “ … There’s just been so much growth in the focus he has with his projects, and his latest project is just kind of wrapping up all the skills he’s learned in the last 10-or-so years of 4-H.”

Hlavac said he is excited for the Fremont 4-H Expo and Butler County Fair, but he acknowledges it will be nice to get a breather in the next few weeks.

“It’s definitely been a really busy month,” he said, with a laugh.

Sam Pimper is the news editor of the Banner-Press. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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