Fair week is finally here! The 2013 Kitsap County Fair and Stampede runs through Sunday night and all week long the 4H and FFA kids are competing for ribbons and bragging rights on their livestock – from beef cattle to bunnies! They are all looking for the Grand Champion – which says that your animal is the closest to the breed standard or is the most structurally correct animal in the competition. Then, you participate in Fitting and Showing when the judge is looking at YOU more than the animal. Showmanship is about …. well…..showmanship! Effectively exhibiting your animal can make the difference between first and second place – or Grand Champion or Reserve Grand Champion. Fitting, or preparing your project for exhibition, starts long before the fair. Project animals need to be properly fed, housed and trained in the months and weeks leading up to the show. I showed cattle beginning at age nine and wound up putting myself through college showing professionally. Then I got married and had babies stopping all that foolishness, but it was fun while it lasted!
The best part about showing was the thrill of competition – and “The Slap”
Now, a few of you might be thinking – showing cattle? Thrilling competition?? Just remember – everyone has their freak! (A few years ago I read the delightful “Candyfreak” - this quote is my fav take away from the book!) Otherwise how can one explain Duck Dynasty, SCA or Serial Rollercoaster Riders!
Back to The Slap.
Four-H and FFA use the Danish System of evaluation and judging. Each competitor is evaluated (for either their project animal or showmanship) and are awarded a blue, red or white ribbon. This system best supports the educational mission of 4-H. Everyone gets a ribbon and comments on how to improve or information on what they did right this time! Make no mistake, 1st blue is definitely better than last white. But you learn as much or more from the latter as you by winning the class. My first showmanship class resulted in last white, which means you have to really suck. But, when you completely ignore the judge that is what you get. Lesson learned!
At the end of each class the top two competitors will be invited back for the championship round. This is the final time for them to strut their stuff for the judge and there is no small amount of drama involved. Typically the judge will bring everyone in, take a final look, make remarks about all the animals and competitors and then make their selection. In the cattle industry it is traditional for the judge to walk to the winner and slap the animal on the rump and shake hands with the exhibitor – just like this! Look at the excitement on that young man’s face! What a moment pure elation – and a well-deserved reward for much hard work!
As you are walking around the fair this week and see the 4-H and FFA youth dragging a lamb around the ring or driving their hogs toward the championship, stick around and watch for a bit. Listen to the judge make comments – teaching and sharing. Cheer the successes and hard work. It isn’t quite the same as baseball or dance lessons, but then, everyone has their freak! Ours just happens to be livestock!