(Posted Jan. 19, 2015)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
The Madison County Fair is no longer the only county fair in Ohio without a Junior Fair Grand Champion Market Show.
Starting with the 2015 fair, a grand champion and a reserve champion will be named for each marketable species: sheep, goats, swine, beef, poultry and rabbits.
The Junior Fair Board (JFB), made up of youths involved in the fair, initiated the push to reinstate the Grand Champion Market Show, last done in Madison County in 1959. In December, they voted 34-3 in favor of the idea, then on Jan. 7 sought approval from the Madison County Agricultural Society (senior fair board).
The senior fair board approved the request in a 12-2 vote. Ruth Ernst and George Roby cast the two “no” votes.
Showmanship vs. Marketability
JFB spokesman Nathan Siebold said education and respect are the main reasons he and his peers wanted to see grand champions reinstated.
“The educational value from this movement is very strong. We are showing that picking the right animal from the lot and building the right feed program to make the best market or breeding animal in the county is what our industry is all about,” he said.
For the past 55 years, the Madison County Junior Fair has emphasized showmanship over marketability. Showmanship is more about the exhibitor—what he or she knows about the species they are showing and how well they handle the animal in the show ring. Marketability is more about the animal and how ready it is for sale.
Siebold stressed that showmanship will not be lost in the shuffle with the addition of the champion market show.
“(Showmanship) will still remain mandatory for all exhibitors at our fair,” he said, adding that raising a marketable animal goes hand-in-hand with being a good showman.
Siebold and JFB President Chris Long said they hope stock suppliers will have more respect for the Madison County Junior Fair now that the grand champions program is back.
Suppliers—the people from whom 4-Hers and FFA members purchase their project animals—like to have their businesses associated with “champions,” said Bryan Wilson, executive director of the Madison County Junior Fair Advisory Committee. For that reason, many prefer to sell their best animals to youths who participate in fairs where such titles are possible.
Glenda Siebold, Nathan’s mother, said she has had suppliers put her on a waiting list when they found out her children were showing at the Madison County Fair. They sell their top animals to others, then call if they have any stock leftover, she said.
She added that a focus on the market side of raising an animal is important.
“I don’t care what they call it,” she said referring to “grand champions” title. “It comes back to accountability for the product they’re doing and preparing them for when they go out into the real world.”
The grand champions discussion also brought up two questions regarding money.
One concern was that some exhibitors will spend high dollars on premium stock for a potential leg up in the title race, making it difficult for exhibitors with less means to compete.
Senior Fair Board member Quinton Keeran sells cattle for fair projects and said youths have had as much success with lower-priced animals as with higher-priced ones.
“Once (the animal) leaves our place…it’s the kid that’s going to make that project,” he said. “Money does a lot of things, but it’s not the end all/be all of success.”
The other money question involved the Junior Livestock Sale—the auction of animals on the last day of the fair. In some counties, grand and reserve champions go for big dollars. Senior Fair Board member Dave Gallimore asked if the grand champions program would take away from how much money other exhibitors receive.
“Having the grand champions would only help,” said Nathan Siebold. “Because the youth are presenting the animal to look the best it can, I think it will draw in more buyers to our fair.”
Keeran agreed, saying, “As an advertiser, I want to put my dollars where the most buzz is.” With the recent building improvements and the reinstatement of grand champions, people are talking about the Madison County Fair. “Buyers will spend money where the reputation is good.”
Madison County Commissioner Paul Gross, who buys several animals at the Junior Fair livestock auction, said people shouldn’t worry about some exhibitors getting “too much money.”
“That’s like saying a kid’s getting too much love,” he said. “Don’t let the successful kids be a distraction.”
He suggested instead to focus on creating a program that helps the youths who aren’t having as much success or who don’t have the same means or network as others.
The Junior Fair already has market shows for beef, poultry and rabbits. Now, there will be market shows for sheep, goats and swine, as well. The top two finishers for each species will be named grand champion and reserve champion.
There will not be a separate “sale of champions.” Winners will go through the regular livestock sale auction with all other exhibitors.