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Dakota County's March featured 4-H alumni

Joe Bigelow

Tell us about yourself

My name is Joe Bigelow. I am an actor, a dancer, and a singer (among a host of other things). I grew up in Welch, MN and went to school in Hastings, MN. I went to college at the University of Minnesota and studied acting in the University of Minnesota’s Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program. I graduated in the spring of 2013. I love reading, doing aerial arts, taking ballet class, cleaning, and writing letters.


How has 4-H impacted your life?

4-H impacted my life because it pushed me in directions I probably would not have explored on my own. I participated in a variety of projects: Horse, Needle Arts, Clothing, Arts-In, Dog, Consumer Education, Crafts and Fine Arts, Performing Arts, and more (props to Kathy Johnson for somehow convincing me every year to do 3 more projects than I had planned on doing). Over half of the things I did, I realized I hated doing those things. However, in the process of trying all those things, I discovered several things I really loved. I never would have discovered those things I loved if I hadn’t tried a lot of different things, including the project areas I ended up not enjoying. From these experiences I learned that when you aren’t sure about something, you should probably just try it. You may hate it, but chances are you may also love it. The only way of knowing is going into the unknown.

Another important way 4-H has influenced my life is that it taught me about responsibility. When I was 10, I may not have felt like sewing those frog pattern pajamas; I may have procrastinated like only a 10-year old can; I may have hidden in my room so my mom couldn’t make me go back to the sewing machine; but at the end of the day, I had made a commitment, and this commitment had a deadline. 4-H was my first real encounter with the concept of a deadline, a concept by which most of the adult world functions. By having to fulfill deadlines consistently throughout my 4-H career, I gradually learned how important it is to prepare and deliver what you promised in time for a deadline. It is a very basic skill but one that can easily dictate a person’s material success or failure in this world.


What is your 4-H history?

I joined 4-H when I was in Kindergarten and was a member until I was 19 years old. I started out in the clothing construction project and various other arts and craft areas. While I was a Cloverbud, for one of my county fair projects I wrote this hilarious little poem called “Sarah
Fair,” and I still have in my bedroom at my parents’ house. I also showed my rabbit, Thumper and spent many summer days romping around the Dakota County fairgrounds. This romping was to continue for many years to come as I began camping out at the fair every year. I began to transition into needle arts while in elementary school; I became obsessed with cross-stitching. As I got a little older, I started showing horses. Then, in middle school, I discovered 2 projects I really loved: showing dogs and knitting. Over the rest of my 4-H career, I went on to be state champion multiple times in both of these project areas. I also began doing Dakota County Arts-In while I was in middle school. It was through the Arts-In show, “At the Hop,” that I first discovered how much I love dance. Ever since that show, I knew I wanted to be onstage and especially that I wanted to be a dancer. Fast forward several years and here I am in New York fulfilling that dream. This is just proof of what a life changing experience 4-H can be.


What are you doing today?

Right now, I am participating in the Work Study program at Steps on Broadway in New York City. I am studying a lot of ballet, tap and theatre dance, with my main emphasis in ballet. One of my other goals in New York is to take acting classes at Scott Freeman’s acting studio. I would like to work professionally in musical theatre, acting, and dance. This summer I will be returning to Minneapolis to be in the Guthrie Theater’s production of “My Fair Lady”.



Anja Koester-Johnson
County 4-H Program Coordinator
(651) 480-7758
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