The W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center at Smith Mountain Lake celebrated 40 years of service on June 29, 2006.

The 120-acre campus was built on land donated by Appalachian Power and is a place that continues to provide learning experiences for youth and adults. Over 500 people attended the event.

The milestone event was celebrated with the official opening and dedication of The Willard Amphitheatre. The new amphitheatre, donated by Ron Willard, serves as a focal point for the entire campus. Designed for multiple uses, it has permanent seating for over 400 youth and 1,000 adults.

Mr. Willard, a member of the board of directors for the 4-H center, grew up in Franklin County and participated in 4-H. He said he continually wants to give back to the community. During the dedication, Charles W. Steger, president of Virginia Tech, noted numerous examples of Mr. Willard’s leadership and commitment to the youth in Franklin and Bedford counties and the entire region.

Those in attendance listened as Dr. W.E. Skelton, the individual for whom the center is named, talked about its 40 years of continued expansion and progress. Skelton also spoke about the importance of 4-H in his life: “The training I received in 4-H was a major factor in preparing me for a successful career, including being a dean at Virginia Tech. I know the benefits I received as a 4-H member, and I want to help other young people enjoy the same experience.”

The center serves 19 counties and cities in central and western Virginia, from Danville and Harrisonburg, to the New River and Roanoke Valleys; it has been described as “America’s Leading 4-H Center.” Over 115,000 4-H youth, thousands of children in state-mandated Standards of Learning student-based programs, specialty camp participants, and adults have visited this premier site.

Written by Doug McAlister.

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