(Posted Aug. 31, 2022)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
London teenager Madison Estep made history at this year’s Ohio State Fair Junior Show when her grand champion market turkey fetched $25,000 in the livestock sale, the most a market turkey has ever sold for at the state fair.
“The most I’ve ever gotten for my birds was $2,000, and that was for two turkeys combined at this year’s Madison County Fair,” said Estep, 14, who has been showing poultry for six years.
The fact that her market turkey was named state grand champion was one thing–she is the first Madison County resident to achieve the title. The fact that it set a record in the Sale of Champions ring at the state fair was icing (a thick layer of it) on the cake.
Estep’s history-making journey started at this year’s Madison County Fair where she earned both the grand champion and reserve champion titles for her market turkeys, something that has only been done once before in the county fair’s history, and that was in 2020 by none other than Estep.
While anyone can show livestock at the state fair–performance at the county level does not serve as a qualifier–Estep said the county level experience is invaluable.
“Doing well at the county level is more or less that next-step confidence boost to go for the state level. It’s good preparation,” she said.
Speaking of preparation, Estep said the key is time–time spent learning about the animal and time spent with the animal. Early on in the season, she would flip over a five-gallon bucket and sit in the cage with her turkeys. When the birds were older, she started walking with them.
“Bonding with the animal is one thing I think that got me the win–not just how the bird looked but how much the bird trusted me,” she explained.
This year marked Estep’s second time showing at the state fair. The first time, she placed sixth in her class. She was thrilled to return.
“I love the fair atmosphere–it’s show kids and their animals!” she said.
Her first day at state this year, Estep sized up her competition, seeing she was up against some seasoned exhibitors. The field was divided into three classes. To be considered for the grand champion title, an exhibitor had to win his or her class.
At the end of the class competition, the judge lined up the top five in Estep’s class with Estep at one end.
“When I saw the judge point to the person on the opposite end and say, ‘fifth,’ my parents and I made eye contact. They were excited. I could see, ‘I’m so proud,’ in my dad’s eyes,” Estep said.
Another such exchange came when, after competing against the winners of the other two classes (a brother and sister duo with whom Estep is good friends), Estep and her turkey came out on top as grand champions.
“The judge shook my hand, and all I could think was, ‘Don’t cry. You’re on camera.’ I look over at my parents, and they were just floodgates. This had been the goal all along. It can’t get any better than this,” she said.
As a grand champion title holder, Estep qualified for the Sale of Champions. Heading into the ring, she said she didn’t know what to expect–certainly not the size of the crowd at the WCOL Celeste Center and certainly not the size of the bids. The auctioneer opened bidding at $1,000 and it quickly went to $10,000, then $20,000, before settling at $25,000. All the while, Estep’s turkey seemed to take everything in stride.
“He was strutting and trying to peck the cameras that were everywhere. He definitely was very personable,” said Estep who, even with her nerves on high alert, did her best to match her turkey’s confident demeanor.
Several buyers came together to purchase Estep’s turkey. They were OKI Inc., Cox Concessions, Schmidt’s, Net Steady, SP+, and Expo Services.
Of the $25,000, $3,000 goes to Estep. The state fair caps the amount exhibitors can earn. Money from the sales over the caps goes to the fair’s Youth Reserve Program for scholarships, the outstanding market exhibitor program, and FFA, 4-H and other fair competition winners.
Estep said she is thankful for her “cheering squad” at the state fair which included: her parents, Brandon and Amanda; Madison County poultry 4-H key leader Julia Smith and her husband, Brian, and son, Cade; Olivia Rinesmith and her mother, Annette Rinesmith, who are very involved with the Madison County Fair; and Paul Gross, Madison County Fair Board president.
“It was good to be there with Mom, Dad, and people who just really do feel like family. It’s a moment that will be a core memory,” Estep said.
A member of the Helping Hands Happy Hearts 4-H Club, Estep served as a 4-H camp counselor for the first time this summer and is a member of the Madison County Junior Fair Board. She loves the opportunity 4-H and the fair give her to educate others about poultry.
“I get to teach parents and families things about my birds and just kind of share the love with poultry at the county fair. It’s one of the main reasons I do 4-H–to teach others about it,” she said.
Estep is a freshman at London High School where she is a member of the FFA, runs track, and plays sousaphone and tuba in the marching and concert bands. She is a member of the Capital University honor band. Her dream is to make it into the Ohio State University marching band and “dot the I.”