Quality Over Quantity

Young Texans Building Character: Central Texas Youth Fair brings quality livestock on display and for sale in the show ring June 2-6

CLIFTON – Thanks to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the world as we knew it has been turned upside down, and it’s been a spring like no other. But as many things change and transform into the new normal, some things do indeed remain the same.

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In 2020, the Central Texas Youth Fair is in its 90th year (above); Judge Beau Stutts gets a laugh out of steer exhibitor Dacey Dietiker at the Central Texas Youth Fair Market Steer Show on Friday, June 5 (top).

After over three hours of discussions mid-May, the Central Texas Youth Fair board decided that one very important event for Bosque County youth would and could not be cancelled. COVID or no COVID, the annual Central Texas Youth Fair held at the Clifton Fairgrounds – entering its 90th year – would remain the spring staple event.

“It took a lot to get this together,” CTYF show MC Roger Parks said before the steer show. “The board thought the youth needed at least something normal this year – a year without prom, without baseball. The board went above and beyond to make this happen.”

With only a few socially-oriented events like the Watermelon Social and the youth Pet Show eliminated out of the schedule, the stock shows were spread out and animals not making the sales were released after the shows. In the end, everything went smoothly with spectators scattering in the stands and respecting social distancing as much as they could.

The CTYF offers a well-rounded county fair with a wide range of events for local Future Farmers of America chapters and 4-H students to compete in. Weeks, months and years of early morning and late evening feeding, every day grooming, daily training of the animals and showmanship were able to come to fruition at the county show.

For those youth missing out on the Houston and Austin stock shows, and especially seniors in the Class of 2020, this was it. This was their last chance to exhibit their livestock projects and display their show skills. And despite battling in the first triple-digit temperature days, many Bosque County seniors had a great show.

Prior to the ring presentations, the youth – often aided by their parents, siblings and friends – washed, blow dried, oiled and brushed their animal to perfection. School Ag teachers were also on hand for last minute tips and grooming assistance.

And then it was time to shine after they changed from the heat-easy shorts, T-shirt and sneakers to the ring-ready studded jeans, starched shirt, buckle belt and boots.

The tension rose as the announcer called in the participants to the ring, one more deep breath, coaxing their goat, lamb, hog or steer into the show arena, in front of the judge’s eyes to hear his comments.

At a smaller county show like the CTYF, most judges have the time to explain to each exhibitor what they see in the show animals – the things that catch their eye in a positive way, and things that might need improving.

More often than not, the judges are impressed by the animals on show in Bosque County. There might not be a whole lot of them, but the quality is high, making it a competitive, worthwhile show for the local youth. Additionally, the youth and their animals gain ring experience in a smaller more informal setting, surrounded by encouraging family and friends, and supportive fellow FFA chapter members, priming them for bigger shows.

Of course, winning the first place ribbon in an animal’s class at a livestock show is important, on a competitive level. But when it comes down to the hours and hours of disciplined dedication, careful preparation for a show and love for their animals and projects, the participating youth are all winners.

This year, a total of 132 youth showed different projects from livestock to ag mechanics, from a crop show to home economics, and cakes too.

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Donna and Dr. Lloyd Hampe at the Central Texas Youth Fair Steer show Friday June 5.

2020 CTYF HONOREES

Each year, the CTYF board honors people who have contributed countless hours, services, funds in support of the event, in addition to buying projects in auction. The 2020 CTYF Honorees were Dr. Lloyd and Donna Hampe.

Dr. Hampe was the CTYF veterinarian for many, many years. The couple also graded record books and quizzes, and donated a portion of the prize money to support the Records/Quiz class. The class was important to them, because it gave exhibitors who did not have a “champion” animal the chance to excel and win a ribbon.

Their own experiences with the CTYF go back to their youth in the 1950s. And their five children all showed animals at the fair.

MARKET SWINE SHOW: Wednesday, June 3

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“This show this year means a lot for the kids,” Parent Natalie Koehler said. “It is important for those trying to recoup some of the costs. It is a blessing for the kids, to be able to finish off their school year this way, especially for the seniors.”

The swine show was delayed over an hour because of a parent’s protest. Thanks to a bit of give and take by both parties involved, everybody signed up for the show was able to enter the show ring. The extra time the youth were able to spend with their hogs because of school being closed showed – the swine seemed more manageable than usual.

In the different weight classes, Judge Greg Clark was looking for specimens that were not too fat, not too thin, well balanced with loads of muscle, with broad shoulders, a big butt and a long back – meaning lots of bacon and big chops. A smooth stride for the heavier hogs was also something to look for, a certain “swagger.” And there were some hogs truly happy to be in the ring, holding their snouts up, seemingly loving the arena time, making little grunting sounds as they followed commands.

For Meridian Senior Kenedee Kuykendall, the swine show was the start of a very busy fair. She was showing three pigs, three lambs, two goats, two heifers and a steer. Grand Champion in the lightweight class went to Iredell’s Westen Chandler, with the Reserve Champion going to his older sister Paisley. Westen’s pretty copper and white pig went on to win Reserve Champion Overall.

The very competitive medium weight class Grand Champion and Reserve Champion titles went to Valley Mills’ MacKenzee Burton. Both her hogs weighed 246 pounds. The Grand Champion in the heavy weight class was a very pretty “blue” showed by Cooper Buxkemper. It loved every single moment in the show ring. He went on to win Grand Champion Overall. His sister Laramie took Reserve Champion.

Iredell’s Kasen Wilson won Junior Showmanship and MacKenzee Burton won Senior Showmanship. MaryAnn Dietiker coordinated the show, assisted by three seniors Maddie Burk, Kamryn Kettler and her daughter Dacey Dietiker.

BROILER SHOW: Thursday, June 4

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Judge Kenneth Drews from Marlin awarded Clifton Senior Wesley Sanders the first and second place slots. Wesley had recruited friends, his brother Ty and Dad to help hold the broilers during judging.

RABBIT SHOW: Thursday, June 4

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Judge Drews – who raises rabbits - started participating in county fairs in 1968 when his children started showing rabbits. He was also the market rabbit show judge. Wearing Teflon scratch gloves, Drews looked for uniformity in the three rabbits per pen. Using a system of crosses, dashes and lines, Drews kept track of his observations as he went down the line, assisted by show coordinator Cathy Little.

After checking, and checking again, Drews awarded Hailey Isaacs Grand Champion and Reserve Champion for her Californian rabbits. Hailey is fortunate to get the advice of family friend Gary Coffey who used to judge rabbits in Ellis County. She had entered three pens. The Record Book award went to Brystel Wise. One of her two pens received the third place.

A concern for future rabbit shows is the outbreak of the lethal Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease in the Northwestern part of the United States in wild rabbit populations. There are already confirmed cases in jackrabbits and cottontails in Lubbock. According to Drews there has also been a case as close by as Lampasas and Kempner.

MARKET HEIFER SHOW: Thursday, June 4

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The heifer show was a jackpot show, for Bosque County residents only. Only eight heifers were shown. Clifton Senior Audrey Anderson was showing Logan Anderson’s heifer, giving her the chance to enter the show ring one more time.

In the show ring for the first time, Heather Thiele with her four-month-old, pint size mini Hereford, Reba did a great job. While she did not win a purple champion or pink reserve ribbon, she stole the show.

Judge Jimmy Key from Grandview awarded Kenedee Kuykendall's heavy weight the Grand Champion prize, with Kenedee’s other heifer winning Reserve. Key was assisted by Ty Sanders to keep the show running smoothly.

MARKET GOAT SHOW: Thursday, June 4

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Judge Key went on to judge the goats next – looking for structural integrity and balance, long body, stout muscle, good shoulders and good hips in each weight class. Show coordinator Andrea Gore and her daughter Natalie helped out with organization and handing out the ribbons.

In the light weight class, Clifton’s Ethan Banuelos won Grand Champion with Valley Mills’ Ashley Rayley taking Reserve. In the middle weight class, Clifton Senior Maddie Burk took both Grand Champion and Reserve. Friend Kamryn Kettler handled one of her goats for her.

Abigale Walker was very much surprised to win the heavy weight class with her goat Charlie. Charlie went on to win Overall Champion. The heavy weight Reserve ribbon went to Kamryn Blanton, who also went on to win Overall Reserve Champion title.

“When judging Showmanship, I want to see the goat’s nose higher than the top of its head,” Judge Key said. “I want the handler to be firm, but not to battle them. They should be relaxed and comfortable but have a ‘I came to win’ confidence in their eyes.’ Confidence helps to propel you to success.”

Junior Showmanship went to Kaya Light with the judge saying “she presented her animal perfectly,” and Senior Showmanship to Ethan Banuelos.

MARKET LAMB SHOW: Friday, June 5

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Cranfills Gap Senior Cameron Wiese also went on to show for his tenth year with a lamb bought just before the COVID-19 restrictions shut the state down. Because school was shut down, Cameron felt he could put in a bit more work than he otherwise would. He won Senior Record Book. Cameron has won Record Book since he started showing lambs in the third grade.

He follows in the footsteps of his older brother and his father, who both showed livestock. Dad Kennie remembers the days of showing lambs “under the oak tree.”

“Thank goodness we’re having a stock show,” Judge Beau Stutts said before the lamb show. “It is a big deal to be here. This is my first show since everything was shut down, and I think it’s the third time I’ve worn a pair of jeans since Houston got cancelled.”

Stutts went on to explain that he would be showing the exhibitors his usual respect by shaking their hands, and that it would be up to them to take his hand or not. Everybody took his hand. Helping the show run smoothly were Iredell Ag Teacher Bradley Fletcher, Zeke and Jamie Wilson.

Overall Champion Lambs went to Meridian Senior Kenedee Kuykendall with Iredell’s Kaylee Wilson taking the Reserve Champion title. It was Kaylee’s first time showing lambs. Her brother Kasen Wilson was awarded Junior Showmanship and Clifton Senior Wesley Sanders won Senior Showmanship.

Judge Stutts was impressed with the level of showmanship, with several outstanding exhibitors that had good presence, good focus, with excellent tending of their sheep. Junior Record Book went to Pepper Mayfield.

MARKET STEER SHOW: Friday, June 5

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Even though there were not a lot of steers entered, Judge Beau Stutts saw a lot of great quality steers with good fat to muscle ratio, stout builds and good show presence, making the choice between class champions and reserves a hard one. Most of the steers competing also were in the Native Steer Class – steers born and raised in Bosque County.

Clifton Senior Dacey Dietiker’s steer Babe was bought to show in Houston in March, and the family was so disappointed the show was cancelled in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions. On June 5, Dacey came full circle. Ending her run of livestock shows where it all began for her 10 years ago, at the CTYF. She and Babe went on to win Overall Champion Steer and Champion Native Steer. Babe came from a local cattle rancher friend, former Bosque County AgriLife Extension Agent David Winkler. Dacey also won Senior Record Book.

In the Purebred British Class, Clifton’s Logan Anderson won Grand Champion and Valley Mills’ Erin Thiele won Reserve Champion. Clifton’s Makail Brandenberger won Reserve Champion to Babe in the American/Crossbreed Class. In the European/Crossbreed Class Grand Champion went to Meridian Senior Kenedee Kuykendall, with Clifton Senior Wesley Sanders taking Reserve Champion. Kenedee already had major wins in Fort Worth and San Antonio this year.

Kenedee went on to win Reserve Champion Overall and Senior Showmanship. With the current high meat prices, her steer is destined for the family dinner table. Clifton’s James Liardon won Junior Showmanship. Helping out with the show were Shay McMillan and his daughter Bailey.

PREMIUM SALE: Saturday, June 6

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“It was a challenging year,” CTYF President Ronnie Liardon said. “But this deal was going to happen, that’s all. And we’re all glad it is happening.”

It being a D-Day anniversary, Liardon honored the soldiers who lost their lives on the Normandy beaches in France during World War II.

“With God’s guidance, this pandemic is just another step along the way,” Liardon said, saying Bosque County residents are tough, that they survived many financial market ups and downs, diseases and other problems; and that they are a good example for the generations growing up.

Besides many personal highlights – which were reiterated as they came into the sale ring – Liardon presented eight $750 scholarships before the Premium Sale Saturday. Receiving scholarships were Logan Anderson, Maddie Burk, Dacey Dietiker, BethAnn McMillan, Matthew Murphy, Wesley Sanders, Erin Thiele and Cameron Wiese. A new scholarship this year is awarded to a Bosque County graduate that is excelling in their field of study. Walnut Springs graduate Matthew Martin received the 2020 scholarship.

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Wesley Sanders receives the 2020 Central Texas Youth Fair High Points Individual Award from President Ronnie Liardon.

Clifton Senior Wesley Sanders – winner of showmanship awards each year he entered – received the 2020 CTYF Overall High Point Individual award for the second time. He won the award previously in 2018. Lauren Prescher was the first to receive the award in 2017. Her sister Brianna won the High Points Individual award last year.

The livestock premium auction is a tradition of county fairs. It is an established reward system honoring young people for the efforts they made to develop and show quality livestock. Through their efforts they learn leadership, agricultural skills and the value of hard work.

Because after all, that is why there is livestock shows – to make money in auction so youth can buy another project, or for the scholarship fund. It is why, during auction, the auctioneer often coaxes the buyers to a higher bid with “Come on now, it’s for the kids.”

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Central Texas Youth Fair show MC Roger Parks.

For many, many years, Calvin Reuter was the “voice” of the Central Texas Youth Fair in Clifton. Robert Parks’ took over that task of the fair’s MC during different shows. Departing President Ronnie Liardon was the auction MC. Driving up the prices in the barn filled with bleachers and buyers, was Kirk Jerningen, and assisted by spotters Todd Clift, Dayton Isaacs and Leslie Burk.

Many youth support groups end up buying the animals, and there is a steady group of generous local businesses and individuals that buy the animals outright or add-on money to a sale. Without the buyers, the CTYF cease to exist, and they are thanked by the board with a “Buyers Lunch” of delicious steak tips, a CTYF yard stick and a cap with the CTYF logo, and the 1930 established date.

Most of the time, the youth know their buyer, and as a courtesy, they go up to them after the sale to shake their hand, and thank them for buying the project. And being the well-raised kids they are, Bosque County kids don’t forget to thank their parents, who have helped with transportation, feed costs, veterinarian costs, helping out on days they were away.

In the past years, 2016 was a top year, grossing close to $190,000 in sales. A trend in the past years is a decline in lambs and steer sales, but increasing sales in goats, rabbits and cakes. These categories have the highest yield – not in total sales, but pound for pound.

The Central Texas Youth Fair in Clifton is woven into the fabric of Bosque County’s rural character. Historically, it is a very important annual event for youth showing livestock, for their families and their supporters. And especially this year, everybody was glad the CTYF board decided to keep the tradition going, in spite of COVID-19 challenges and uncertainties.

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS

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