By Marie Meis
The day of the beef show at the Antelope County Fair can be considered one of my favorite days of the year. It starts off with pancakes and ends with the annual derby, a great day from start to finish. A lot of people from the area like to come down and watch the 4-Hers showcase what they have been working for, but many don’t realize how much work goes into showing animals at fair. I asked fellow 4-Hers Grace Henn and Nicole Beckman what it’s like to get their animals ready for fair, as well as horse superintendent Tim Hart.
Grace Henn has been showing chickens at the Antelope County Fair for about five or six years. It may not be a very large animal, but it is still a commitment to own an animal, especially for as long as she has been showing chickens. As she explains, “You have to feed and water them daily, collect the eggs, clean the chicken coop and put clean hay down.” For chicken showmanship, you have to have a lot of knowledge about the breed and know and be able to explain all the parts of the chicken. Henn recalls having to show chickens last year with a fake chicken, as the Avian Flu prevented chicken shows in Nebraska, “It should be more fun this year because we don’t have a fake chicken, we can actually show our chickens.”
Onto larger animals, Tim Hart has shown horses since he was in high school, and has helped his own kids show at the county fair as well. Hart says, “It takes a lot of patience and a little bit of know-how on how to handle horses.” He explains that to get a two year old horse ready to show, it can take six to eight months of working with it. There are many competitive classes for the horses to be entered in, and they all take training. You can do all of them, or just one of them, but no matter what, just owning a horse is a lot of commitment. He explains the reason for showing horses as, “Just the satisfaction of knowing that you worked with that animal and were able to get it to do things that it needed to do, it’s very satisfying in and of itself, not to mention the trophies they might get.”
Nicole Beckman has had a lot of experience showing animals as well. She has shown at the county fair for the past ten years and will be showing for the last time this year. She starts training her pigs about three to four weeks before fair, so they can perform their best in the show ring. “Showing pigs is much different than any other large animal at the fair because the pigs are free to roam around as they please,” commented Beckman. She explains having to guide them around the ring so the judge can see them, but not too close to the judge or the fence. Beckman also describes the commitment that comes with showing swine, “Not only do I train them by walking them, I also wash them, trim their hair, and have to monitor their weight.”
No matter what animal you bring to the fair, it takes hard work and commitment. Learning to train an animal is a very important skill, and can be very rewarding.
Beckman pointed out that it’s much more than getting that first place title, it’s about knowing that you put in the time and effort and can be proud of your animal. Tim Hart describes the relationship with horses, but I believe it applies to all show animals, “It’s not that it’s a pet, but they have a bond and a relationship with that animal.”
By Marie Meis