The Douglas County Fair and Rodeo’s 4-H competitions can be seen as an exercise in contrasts. Take, for example, the dedication, patience and …
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The Douglas County Fair and Rodeo’s 4-H competitions can be seen
as an exercise in contrasts.
Take, for example, the dedication, patience and wealth of
knowledge on display as the 4-H participants proudly show off their
animals inside the ring at the pavilion. Then compare that with the
sometimes dimwitted and less-than-cooperative livestock that are
paraded around the ring.
Jesse Lautenbach, 13, of Sedalia, is quick to admit that the
intelligence level of her lambs is questionable at best. On
Thursday, she showed “Dumb,” a black ewe that placed 4th in the
class 5 market lamb show. Dumb’s companion is, of course,
Lambs are known to bleat throughout the competition and fight
the constant stance corrections and “bracing” by their owners.
Showing the lambs requires a calm demeanor and patience, as the
animals do not respond to vocal commands.
“You have to love it,” said Lautenbach, who shows rabbits, dogs,
poultry and lambs with 4-H. She says the Douglas County Fair and
Rodeo is her “highlight of the year;” she has been showing animals
for six years.
Similarly, Ian McKee, 12, of Franktown, looks forward to the
event each year. He showed his gold-laced Wyandotte chicken,
Alaska, in the 4-H poultry competition. After the show, he spoke
about ways to calm chickens so they cooperate when the judges are
carefully eyeing them.
“You stroke their back and their waddle,” he said, as his
sister, Heather, 10, showed her entry in the barn.
Their mother, Stephanie McKee, whispered a few last-second words
of advice in Heather’s ear before she entered the ring. She
reminded her daughter to enunciate, especially because her
chicken’s breed is the hard-to-pronounce speckled Sussex, and
reminded her about poise because “it’s all about presentation.”
The 4-H competitions are serious business. Taking the time to
prepare is key to having a good show and walking away with a
top-three ribbon. Stephanie McKee calls this a “crazy busy” time of
year for her and what she calls a “big chicken club,” a group of
4-H mothers who have become good friends over the years.
Not everyone is there as a 4-H competitor. Blane Allen, 5, of
Larkspur, sported his finest cowboy gear as he cheered on his
brother. Blane is waiting his turn for the spotlight. He is a
participant in the mutton busting competition during the rodeo.
When his father, Scot, is asked what advice he gives his son before
he enters the ring, he says. “Just hang on.”
The parting of ways is an inevitable part of 4-H. The kids sell
off their animals after the shows, and sometimes the good-byes can
be difficult. Lautenbach remembers bawling after selling her first
lamb, but she now prepares herself for the separation.
Ian McKee said he is usually glad to get rid of his meat pen
poultry entrants at the end because they tend to be “mean” and
4-H is all about having fun and gaining experience. The kids learn
a sense of responsibility throughout the preparatory period,
Stephanie McKee said, and pride when they give their best in the
Lautenbach actually enjoys the chance to be scrutinized by a 4-H
judge. Emily Horvath, the judge in the market lamb contests,
measured up every detail, including chest depth, length and muscle
tone. She offered a critique of each lamb, but consistently ended
by highlighting the positive attributes of each lamb.
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