The following blog is a guest post provided by Rachel Gray, a Senior in Agribusiness at the University of Mount Olive. The article is part of a series of blogs provided by UMO students.
The North Carolina State Fair is an annual event people anxiously look forward to attending. During the 10 days the fair is hosted, nearly one million people will visit the fairgrounds.
Livestock and poultry competitions go on throughout the fair. Families from across North Carolina and surrounding states work year-round to prepare their livestock for competitions.
My younger sister and I have shown dairy cattle since we were five and seven years old, respectively. We began participating in shows at county fairs near Iredell County. When we were 13 and 15, we began competing at the N.C. State Fair. The enhanced competition at the State Fair elevated our performance and challenged us to improve. We learned that if we wanted to place, we needed to devote more time and focus on preparing for the competition as soon as the fair was over to have a chance to win the next year.
Showing livestock is an excellent way for youth and young adults to learn responsibility, competitiveness, sportsmanship, leadership, finances and relationships. Selecting an animal to show takes talent. To select your animal, you must consider all the items that the judge will look for and score you on: frame, dairy character, body capacity, feet, legs and udder. Having a keen eye for these characteristics teaches decision-making skills and problem-solving. Then the daily work of feeding, watering, halter breaking, and training your livestock begins.
For many fair participants, the fair is a chance to enjoy the rides and an abundant selection of foods that are available. For many youth participating in the show ring, it is an opportunity to display over a year of their hard work in hopes of winning their class, a showmanship ribbon, or even the potential of taking home a grand champion banner!
I aged out of the youth shows and, sadly, this chapter of my life has come to an end. Showing dairy cattle is a family tradition that has taught me many life skills, helped me make lifelong friends and filled my childhood with many fond memories. My younger sister, Laurel, was able to show her heifer at the State Fair this year to continue our tradition and I made it to the fair to watch the competition. I intend to continue my experience in the agricultural industry as I complete my degree at the University of Mount Olive and continue to look for ways to support others interested in showing livestock.
While at the NC State Fair this week, take time to visit the educational booths and the agricultural exhibits to learn more about North Carolina Agriculture!