Wright City

Wright City woman 'really did make a difference' for 4-H community

By Cindy Gladden, Record Correspondent
Posted 9/8/23

Ardell Mikus of Wright City was inducted into the Missouri state 4-H Hall of Fame. She owns Pumpkins Galore farm in Warren County.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
Wright City

Wright City woman 'really did make a difference' for 4-H community


Ardell Mikus didn’t realize the possible impact she was having on Warren County kids until she won what she calls her “own little Grammy award.” 

Mikus, of Wright City, was inducted into the Missouri 4-H Hall of Fame on Aug. 12 at the Missouri State Community College in Sedalia.

“Maybe I really did make a difference,” she said. 

“I didn’t even realize there was such a thing as a Hall of Fame. I just grew up knowing it took people to be 4-H project leaders to make 4-H work. My parents were great community leaders. I learned from them.”

Ardell and Leroy Mikus are well known for their farm’s business, Pumpkins Galore. Hundreds of people flock to their farm each autumn to pick their prize pumpkin, purchase fresh apple butter, listen to local bands or tackle the giant corn maze.

She grew up just two miles down the road from the Mikus farm. In 1980, after the birth of her two boys, she began teaching the Foods class for the Handy Helper 4-H Club, which became the Rolling Stones 4-H Club later.

At the time most of the “country kids” were in 4-H; “town kids” were in Scouts. She said that has changed. It’s not just country kids in 4-H now. Kids in town can raise rabbits and chickens as a project for example. Some of them raise their animals at a friend’s farm.

Mikus learned to cook and sew as a young girl the same way her students would learn from her.

“We sewed and we ripped,” she laughed. “Whatever we cooked, we had to sample. I loved watching the kids grow up and now their kids are in 4-H.”

Ardell (Held) Mikus did her own share of showing at the Warren County Fair. She won grand champion market lamb at 13 years old  in 1967. Her sister, left, Nola, won reserve lamb. Fifty years later, her granddaughter, Kaitlyn Mikus, won grand champion market lamb.
Ardell (Held) Mikus did her own share of showing at the Warren County Fair. She won grand champion market lamb at 13 years old in 1967. Her sister, …

Denise Dent played a part in nominating Mikus. She said the 4-H Council sealed the deal by voting for Mikus as this year’s inductee. Dent said she saw Mikus in action when she was a girl and then watched her daughters learn from her. 

She remembers a time her daughter’s club made pies for a fish fry at Holy Rosary. She said the kids learned to serve and give back in addition to learning the ins and outs of baking a pie.

“She was fun and interesting and gave the kids a new perspective on cooking,” she said. “She has always been willing to give time, energy and effort. The award is well deserved.”

Mikus was shocked to receive a letter in the mail from the Missouri 4-H Foundation informing her she had been nominated for the 4-H Hall of Fame and would be inducted during the Missouri State Fair. More than 30 Missouri counties were represented in this year’s induction.

To be eligible, nominees must have served a minimum of 20 years, be approved by the county 4-H Council and have “created exceptional legacies of volunteer service and dedication to Missouri 4-H.”

The entire Mikus family, including six proud grandchildren, attended the ceremony. Two of her grandsons, who were showing pigs at the time, were kicking the mud from their boots as they breezed in at the last moment to see their grandmother honored.

Mikus said she still admires the 4-H program even though she is no longer teaching and would encourage parents to consider it for their children. 

“I felt so fortunate to be able to teach as a project leader — my two sons, Dave and Dustin and all six of my grandchildren.

Ardell Mikus poses with her homemade bread.
Ardell Mikus poses with her homemade bread.

“There are a lot more categories for the kids to choose from now, like robotics,” she said. “I’m not happy with their cookbooks now though. They use cake mixes for their cakes! They are much better made from scratch. I love my old cookbooks better.”

She’s still cooking, having just completed more than 1,000 pints of apple and peach butter for the upcoming season at Pumpkins Galore. She also makes bread  and her famous gooey butter cake for the country store.

Mikus said Pumpkins Galore will celebrate its 35th year this autumn.

“It all started by accident,” said Mikus. “A cousin dropped off some Indian corn seed when my boys were little. We sold the corn to another farm and came home with 30 pumpkins, which we didn’t know what to do with. The boys, who were seven and 11, set up a stand and made $48. That was the beginning.”

Pumpkins Galore will open Sept. 23, welcoming visitors to their farm on Stringtown Road, which includes a seven-acre high tech corn maze. Mikus said they team up with Big Joel’s Safari to create a drone-led design in their cornfield. Visitors can pick their own pumpkin, play on the giant jumping pillow, feed farm animals, ride the barrel train or the horse-drawn wagon.

Mikus said the next generation is taking over a lot of the work of the family business, leaving her time to spend with Leroy and her family. She proudly displays her 4-H award but says the real reward is watching new generations of kids learn great skills offered by 4-H.

The first 4-H club began in 1902 in Clark County, Ohio. The clover pin was developed in 1910 and by 1912, the groups were called 4-H clubs. The 4-H program is overseen by the University of Missouri Extension. Clubs are open ages eight to 18. Clover Kids are designed for five- to seven-year-olds. The 4-H program year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

For more information call Maureen Michel at the Warren County MU Extension at 636-456-3444. There are currently eight community 4-H Clubs which students can explore during the month of September. Clubs include Big Creek, Camp Branch, Cornerstone, Country Crossroads, Elk Horn, Homestead, Prairie View and Rolling Stones.

wright city, pumpkins galore, 4h, hall of fame, missouri