"It's all flat, and there's not very many trees."
That is the impression that 10 kids from Pennsylvania and 10 from Western New York had of Minnesota on Monday while they visited the state as part of an Interstate 4H Exchange program.
This week, 20 4Hers from Niagara County, N.Y., and Crawford and Erie County, Pa., will stay with host families of 24 Lyon County 4Hers and get a taste of southwestern Minnesota.
Photo by Megan Hanson
The Lyon County Historical Museum in downtown Marshall was a stopping point for 4Hers from the East Coast on Monday.
They will visit the national monument in Pipestone, local Fourth of July festivals, Wild Water West in Sioux Falls, S.D., do farm tours and see the Lake Benton windtowers, said Laurie Palmer, coordinator of the exchange program.
On Sunday the kids got a chance to visit the Mall of America after they flew in, and on Monday they visited the Schwan Ice Cream plant, and the Lyon County and Red Baron museums.
Amber Smith, 19, of Niagara County, N.Y., said she wanted to come to Minnesota "for the Mall of America, of course," but also said that availability and the fact that Lyon County 4Hers visited Niagara County, N.Y., last year as reasons why she came.
She said that so far Minnesota has been "super great," but is different from home.
"You don't have to stop before you cross the street here...if you didn't stop in New York you would definitely get hit," she said.
Smith traveled with her younger brother, Derek Smith, 17, and her mother.
Derek Smith said he came to "learn new things" and make friends.
He said one big difference is more plain land, farmland and scenery.
Vickie Huson, from Crawford County, Pa., said that the fact no one from the group had ever been to Minnesota was a deciding factor in why they came to Minnesota.
"We wanted to meet Minnesotans," Huson said.
She also said she was excited to go to Wild Water West on Tuesday, and that she enjoyed the Mall of America.
"I wanted to get away from the East Coast," Alec Rogan of Erie County, Pa., said.
Rogan hosted Jared Hively, 15 ad 18 of Balaton, last year when they traveled as part of the exchange program to Pennsylvania.
Rogan and Hively stayed friends, and this year, the Hivelys are hosting Rogan.
Hively's mother, Teri, said that the week is a big commitment for the boys.
"They have to fund-raise to bring the kids here," Teri Hively said.
Host 4Hers are responsible for raising enough money to cover the cost of the traveling 4Hers while they are visiting, including all meals and admission tickets.
The traveling 4Hers are responsible only for paying for their transportation.
"I was like, 'oh no, two more boys,' but it's not that bad, and I was really looking forward to it," Teri Hively said about hosting both Rogan and Nic Pistory, also from Erie County.
On Friday, which is "Family Day," Teri Hively said that she will take everyone to the Balaton Funfest, and because she is a member of the Balaton Fire Department, the boys will get to ride in the parade on the fire truck.