SIDNEY — The spot to be on Wednesday during the Shelby County Fair was arena side of any of the Junior Fair livestock shows. Animals were being led from the barn and back, 4-H Club members were toting special interest projects around, kids were running around with melting ice cream in hand. Excitement was in the air.
The poultry show, featuring market and meat chickens, ducks and turkeys, kicked-off the morning livestock shows and stretched into the early afternoon. The swine show, featuring market gilts and barrows, packed-in quite a crowd in the late afternoon. And on the other side of the fairgrounds, the llama and alpaca show was held in the early evening.
Poultry show judges Larry Lokai and Tom Reiman kept the pace of the show moving swiftly.
Lokai, wearing a white doctor coat, with OSU printed on the back, and a chicken hat, notably added entertainment as well as an education for young exhibitors as the morning show went along. He utilized multiple chicken or turkey hats for youngsters to wear and add some fun during judging. He gave out small, humorous tokens to help nervous children relax, and handed out buckeye necklaces to second place winners and some members of the crowd.
This will be the last year of showing at the Shelby County Fair for Samantha Gaerke, 19, of Russia, who is a 13-year-member of Russia Livestock 4-H Club, and is currently serving her second year on the Junior Fair Board. She plans to attend the Ohio State University in the fall and notes that summers will be “a lot different” after leaving 4-H.
“I will miss it. I enjoy walking around the fair and helping out,” Samantha said, but said she will cheer on her younger siblings and be able enjoy the fair more with less responsibilities next year.
Samantha, her brother Jayden, 12, and sister Alexandria, 13, all children of Jason and Judie Gaerke, and also members of Russia Livestock, all showed market meat chickens at Wednesday’s poultry show. Samantha placed first place in the class-four single broiler, and won fourth place overall.
Jayden won second place in the class light-heavy broiler pen, and took fifth overall. He said his favorite part of the fair is seeing friends and is not nervous at all when showing his chickens.
Alexandria took first place in the class light-heavy broiler pen, and took reserved champion in the single broiler.
“I’ve been doing this for a while. I’m not nervous (to show) it’s just part of the fair,” Alexandria said about her fifth show.
Carson Shoffner, 11, of Anna, son of Kevin and Jennifer Shoffner, and member of Anna Livestock, took Grand Champion single fryer. This was the first year he showed his animals. Last year he was unable show due to a surgery and a sibling show for him instead.
“I didn’t think I was going to win. I was super surprised!” Carson said, who also brought sheep and a turkey to the show.
Riley Brewer, 10, of Anna, son of Nykole and Ryan Brewer, member of Shamrock Stickers said he was kinda nervous when showing his white pekin meat duck. He took third place in class-three.
“The funnest part (of fair) is seeing friends,” Riley said.
Among the hustle and bustle in front of the animals’ barns, Meredith Klein, 13, of Anna, daughter of Eric and Sarah Klein, and member of Anna Livestock and Shelby County Shooting Sports, was getting her picture taken for the Sidney Daily News for her special interest projects. Meredith entered three projects this year, all of which each won best of class, outstanding of the day and state fair qualifier. She entered an three-dimensional archery project that explained all about archery. Also she entered an up-cycling project called “It’s my home,” which she re-purposed a toy guitar decorated with old sheet music into a finger nail polish holder that is hung on a wall. The third project she entered was a self-determined project on small companion animals with a focus on hedgehogs. She admitted although she tried to convince her mom to get a hedgehog for a long time, she decided after her research she didn’t truly want one for a pet after all.
“I really liked archery when I tried it (during 4-H Camp) and so I wanted to learn more about it and learn to do it safely,” Meredith said. “It was a lot of fun, but it was a lot of work.”
Later when the swine show got underway, the arena was packed with people gathered all around. The young exhibitors commanded their pigs back and forth in the show arena for judge Kaylee Keppy to be able to get a good look at their animal.
John Smock, 15, of Jackson Center, son of Phil and Mary Lee Smock, and member of Botkins Livestock, said he was nervous leading up to Wednesday’s show. He took purebred market gilt grand champion.
“I was a little shocked. But my dad told me to go in with confidence,” John said. He and his brother are also showing at the Ohio State Fair. He noted that he is a little tired, but also a little disappointed fair is almost over.
“Showing with my brothers is my favorite thing about the fair,” he said.
Madison Snider, 11, of Fort Loramie, daughter or Luke and Jennifer Snider, member of Fort Loramie Livestock, said she picked her pig out by herself that won first place of the division two, class-four crossbred gilt.
“When I won, I was like, ‘I can do this!’ Final drive are my favorite two words in the whole world,” Madison said proudly. “But even if I didn’t win, I love the fair. I love the people. I love the fun. I love camping here. It’s like a big family here. Last place or first place, I would love it just the same.”
Over at the llama and alpaca arena, exhibitors marched their animals around for Deb Yeagle to judge.
Ten-year-old River Pistone, of Sidney, son of Kimberly and Ken Pistone, member of Houston Livestock, took second place showing a juvenile male alpaca under 2-years-old, for the second year in a row.
“I was nervous and exited (to show),” River said. He noted that he had been working with the alpaca for the last couple months before Wednesday’s show.
Anna Henry, 14, of Houston, daughter of Shawn and Jill Henry, member of Houston Livestock, took first place showing her juvenile male alpaca under 2-years-old. This is her sixth year showing at the fair.
“I was excited to show, and nervous. Showing is my favorite part of the fair,” Anna said.
Lokai, of Urbana, said he has been in every stage, from exhibitor, to parent, to grandparent, to agriculture educator, to 4-H and FFA coach, to a judge at county fairs and with the Ohio State University Poultry Judging team. This makes his 52 year as a Junior Fair judge.
“Each show,” Lokai said, “should have three parts: to judge, educate, and be fun. I try to educate each kid. I’m here to encourage them to go to the next level. To help open the door for them.”