The Delaware County Junior Fair is back in full force, and over the weekend, champions were named in the various market shows. In the market turkey competition, the bird belonging to Sierra Sparks was named Champion Meat Turkey.
Sparks, an eighth grade student at Berkshire Middle School, is wrapping up her fifth year of showing. In addition to turkeys, she also shows market chickens, goats, horses, and her Australian shepherd dog.
Sparks said showing turkeys began as a way to help pay for college. Every dollar Sparks makes from the sales of her market turkeys and chickens is put into a college fund. In looking for another market project to take on, Sparks said turkeys made the most sense due to her family’s knowledge of the bird.
“I was very excited that we won champion because it takes a lot of work to get that,” Sparks told The Gazette. “It’s really hard to get a bird that is good enough to beat all of the birds that go to the Delaware County Fair because the Delaware County Fair has a lot of good animals that come here, especially in the market classes.”
For Sparks, this year’s champion turkey marks the first champion of her career in market shows, although she said she’s been close in years past with top-five finishers. Sparks said the process of showing a champion turkey begins when the birds are just poults.
“You have to make sure they always have lots of food and water,” Sparks said. “We don’t let them out into the paddock. If we do let them out, we don’t let them out for very long because they’ll sleep out there. They need to be sleeping in their coup with all the sawdust; you have to layer up all the sawdust to keep them from getting blisters. And outside, the hard ground gets them dirtier … For champion turkeys, you really look for no blisters, lots of meat, you don’t want bruising because they have to cut that out of the meat when it gets processed, which adds an extra hassle. It’s really just the overall mass and quality of the meat.”
Mica Sparks, Sierra’s mother and a member of the Delaware County Fair’s Poultry Committee, said there is also a “feed mixology” component that includes mixing the feed at the right time and increasing the bird’s protein at the proper times.
Sierra said she didn’t go into this year’s fair with much of an expectation to show a champion turkey given that her experience lied mostly with market chickens, as well as the fact that she’s not yet a senior 4-H member, which she said is usually when everything starts to click. But as she began to hear the measurements of her bird, and as the judging process played out, Sparks began to realize the show was going to come down to her bird and one other turkey.
That other turkey belonged to her brother, Coltin, naturally, bringing a bit of a sibling rivalry aspect to the show as well. Ultimately, Coltin wound up taking home the reserve champion award. Sierra said she believes the deciding factor came down to her brother’s turkey having slight inflammation in its feet.
“He was a little upset that I beat him. He’s my older brother so, of course, he wants to beat me,” Sierra said of edging out her brother.
Sierra said her brother credited the final results to the fact Sierra was the first to pick their birds, but she added that her brother is still really happy to have the family name attached to the top two spots in the competition.
For Mica Sparks, seeing both of her children having success in the show was a true delight, as it would be for any parent.
“It was a very proud moment. It’s every mom’s dream to see both their kids excel and get first and second (place),” she said. “It was a huge dream come true for our family with all the hard work we put in.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.