Pauls Valley Democrat
It’s no secret to the agriculture community how the benefits of showing animals at events through programs like FFA or 4-H can bring kids together no matter which town they call home.
One of the best examples for many families in the surrounding rural region has been the Garvin County Junior Livestock Show, kicks off today at the county fairgrounds in Pauls Valley and continue through March 2 for the 76th time.
It’s a passion those like show Superintendent Mike Lee can understands after a few decades being a part the area’s largest collection of farm animals as well as the camaraderie created through all of the school’s participating programs.
“The agriculture community’s kind of close knit, it’s kind of different altogether,” said Lee, who started as a swine superintendent in the 1980s before taking on overall show management duties in 2004.
“It’s nice to see what you’re doing there and how it benefits the kids.”
Despite a gradual decrease in the total entries as competing academic or sports interests and economic times make it more expensive to maintain them, kids from the county seat to Lindsay, Stratford, Wynnewood, Paoli, Maysville and Elmore City will soon be flooding the arena floor.
This involves choice picks from a nomination class that still included about 706 animals this year.
Activities kick off throughout the day with the first check-ins, before launching into the goat/sheep show on Tuesday and check-ins for the barrows/gilts begin by 6 p.m. on Wednesday. The show as well as judging for those animals is on Thursday and will continue in the morning with the check ins for cattle by 6 p.m., followed by the cattle show/fittings in the morning and afternoon on Friday, March 1 to wrap up the drive to see who can claim the title of grand or reserve champion for each.
The support goes even deeper when one considers that it takes a whole family’s efforts to make sure an animal is up to show standards, said Lee.
Oftentimes the kids who are involved in FFA or 4-H also have other activities going on, which means mom or dad also pitch in from feeding to cleaning. When they aren’t helping at the show as well, family from all over will come and see the kid even if they only have one animal featured for a few minutes.
“They’re right there beside you the whole way… you don’t see many that aren’t family oriented,” said Lee, who said his parents were always supportive of his FFA/4-H years and hopes to see his grandchildren in the arena before too long.
“If they weren’t close together they wouldn’t be doing it.”
While the spirit of competition will certainly be in the atmosphere, it’s not really the same as say a football game between the same schools where the feeling is us against them, said Lee.
Instead of heated rivalry, many of them become close friends through these shared skills they pick up, and it doesn’t matter where they are from by the time the exhibitors dance arrives in the evening on Friday, March 1.
“With these kids when they go to shows, they all go to the same show and they kind of know each other from that,” said Lee, noting how at the premium sale a week away, which is more of a sponsorship than actual purchase of animals, will often feature people bidding for animals for kids they’ve never met.
“It’s just an intermix of all ages and it’s really cool because all the schools are knotted. They really become good friends.”
In the end, everyone has a good time trying to figure out what features will earn their program honors, which changes a little bit each year.
It’s also all made possible through generous donations from all over the county. This can be individual donors for banners in the arena or businesses that have sponsored improvements like heating near the bleachers in the arena or a place the 4-H kids can sell concessions each day.
“Each year they change a little bit. They’re always trying to chase down what the judge wants,” said Lee. “There are just things going on 24/7.”