Cole Wecker was named the 2019 Junior Fair Livestock Showman of Showmen Champion at the Delaware County Fair Wednesday.
Wecker qualified for the event by exhibiting poultry — a six-month old Jersey giant in the American class that weighs about eight pounds — but knew enough about the other animals in the Junior Fair Show Arena to be named the champion.
“I’ve been showing since I was eight years old. It took me from ever since I’ve been showing to get to this point,” said Wecker, a junior at Big Walnut High School. “I show chickens, rabbits and lambs. Chickens are my favorite, though. There’s something unique about them — there’s a lot more variety. A lot of people think that roosters are mean, but most of the time if you handle them, they’re quite nice.”
He said the hardest part about the competition was talking about his bird — what would you like to change about it?
“He’s pretty good all-around other than the fact that his comb (the fleshy top of the head) has got a little twist in it,” Wecker said. “Other than that, he’s good. He won Grand Champion rooster in the barn, standard size, so he did quite well.”
The other ribbon winners were as follows: second place, Rachel Sherman (dairy cow); third (tie), Kendall Sestili (market goat) and Donovan DeCoster (dog); fourth, Lindsey Stein (rabbit); and fifth, Aubrey Altizer (sheep).
Also competing were Olivia Cardi, Bailey Deal, Abby Facemyer, Sam Griffin, Lilly Henney, Natalie Hohman, Kasen Knapp, and Hannah Plank.
To the casual observer who may have walked into the arena as they strolled the fairgrounds, it may have seemed odd to find 4-H’ers walking over to a different animal and person every five minutes among a menagerie of livestock that included an alpaca, beef cow, penned pig, pygmy goat, and an English horse and Western horse (both of them outside the ring, so as not to be spooked). What’s it all about?
The 14 competitors previously exhibited their animal and either won the Showmanship category for that breed, or was named Reserve Showman (they compete if the winner doesn’t appear) as a Junior, Senior or Intermediate.
“It took a lot of work for these kids to get here. It’s a good experience. There’s a lot to learn,” said McKinley Roll, the event chair and a former competitor. She said many of the competitors will end up majoring in animal science (like herself), Ag leadership or veterinary science in college. “These are all showmanship animals, so they’ve all been handled and they’re calm.”
The contestants are quizzed by a judge not only about their animal, but all the others in the arena. Each animal is different, and is shown in a different way — even, in some cases, down to how the exhibitor is to dress. In some cases, they may have to walk the animal in a pattern, display it, or put a bridle on it. The competitor has to keep one eye on the animal and one on the judge, and the animal needs to be in between the two people. The judge gives each competitor a score, which is gathered after each rotation by volunteers. The competitor ends up with their animal. The total scores are tabulated, and ribbons are given to the top five.
“This is to see who’s the best of those who display their animal, to test their knowledge and ability,” said Nancy Hayes-Plazolles, the dairy goat judge for five years at the fair. “It’s up to them to learn how to do it. It’s quite an achievement, and some of these people have worked on it the entire time they’ve been in 4-H.”
Hayes-Plazolles, a 4-H advisor who raises Boer goats in Radnor, said she used to be a teacher.
“I love interacting with the kids,” she said. “I love to see them succeed, making them feel positive about themselves. I just encourage them to better themselves and not feel downtrodden because you finished in last place. Losing has a lot of lessons to learn. Next year you can do a little better.”
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.