Two-and-a-half year-old Ariston didn't want to leave the driver's seat of the shiny red fire truck that pulled up to Winter Creek Friday morning even though there were horses and llamas and dogs and ducks nearby.
"He enjoyed the horses, but he loves firemen," said mom Loann Blanchard later as she watched him examine a pair of firemen's boots sitting on the side of the truck. But that didn't hold his attention long.
Asked if he was having a good time, he said simply, "No. How do you open the door.?"
He wanted back on the truck.
Blanchard and her son were one of 27 families who on Friday visited Winter Creek, a farm just north of Enumclaw along State Route 169. They came with Hope Place, a recover program for women who've been affected by domestic violence, homelessness and substance abuse, said Teylar Greer, an elementary program coordinator.
Hope Place came at the invitation of the King County 4-H program. According to Jim Luty, a King County 4-H horse program spokesperson, this was only the second year that the program has invited Hope Place to the countryside. Last year involved just the horse program, but this year, organizers opened it to a variety of 4-H programs so to broaden the children's exposure to other animals.
Members and volunteers with the 4-H program also provided a large array of donated clothes and winter coats for the families, said WSU King County 4-H educator Nancy Baskett.
On top of that, firefighters from Enumclaw/Fire District No. 28 escorted Santa for a visit on a fire truck that the kids could play on.
As expected, the kids were loving it. "I'd say the vast majority of the kids have not lived in the country," Greer said. "So that's a big draw. And then they [4-H members] gave us lunch, jackets, treats and toys -- all these additional gifts. They're really excited. ... Here, they're able to be in so many different places (fire truck, riding animals, eating, playing), I haven't heard an 'I'm bored, I'm ready to go' yet."
The opportunity for 4-H members to interact with the visitors proved fun as well. According to Baskett, there were about 30 members helping introduce kids to the various animals and supervising their riding.
"It's been really fun," said 15-year-old Grace Montgomery, of Maple Valley, who was introducing the kids to her llama. "They [the animals] bring so much joy to my life and it's fun to see others get joy from them too."
According to the King County 4-H website, the program is the youth development program of Washington State University Extension, and is managed jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington’s land grant university (WSU) and King County government. As the program lost out on 2012 funding from King County, it will begin an orderly shutdown of activities beginning in the new year, with shutdown complete by Sept. 30, according to the Auburn Reporter.
"This has been devastating news to our kids, and we are still hoping for a New Year's miracle," Luty told the Auburn Reporter.