Animal handlers bring competitive edge to county fair

Wes Franklin

When he lived in Texas, Cody Smith used to show in the Stonewall County Fair, near Abilene.

But that was pretty small potatoes, he said, compared to the Newton County Fair, which kicked off this week and where Smith will be manhandling three breeds of animals in the show ring.

This year’s fair, to be held through Saturday at the Roy Jean Carter Memorial Fairgrounds, is the 41st annual for Newton County.

Smith was busy Wednesday trimming his Limousine cross steer for show. He will also enter his market lamb and sheep. Throw in some caged chickens to boot, and Smith has brought quite the livestock entourage with him from his family’s farm near Diamond, where he belongs to the local FFA and 4-H group. 

He will be staying at the fair with his animals until Saturday, sleeping in a pop-up camper about a rock’s throw away from his steer.

Now 16, Smith first started showing in the Newton County Fair five years ago, after his family moved from Texas.

“It’s just something fun to do in the summer when there’s nothing to do,” he said, adding later that he will enjoy showing his steer the most, though he also likes showing sheep, and has shown goats in the past as well.

Like a lot of the youth at the fairgrounds, Smith comes from a tradition of fair showmen, beginning with his father. He said he expects to continue showing until he reaches the age cut-off of 21. After that, he figures his future children will pick up the fair tradition later on.

“It’s what I’ve done, it’s what my whole family has done,” Smith said. “We’ve got to keep the generations (of fair showmen) going.”

Hundreds of kids in Newton County are doing just that this week, showing in the available livestock divisions of beef cow, dairy cow, dairy goat, boer (meat) goat, sheep and swine. They may also enter rabbits and chickens, as well as various project exhibits in woodworking, photography, horticulture, meats, gardening, clothing, cake decorating, geology, forestry, knitting, scrapbooking, quilting, outdoor adventure skills, small engines, veterinary science and much more.

These exhibits can mostly all be viewed in the 4-H building, which was closed Wednesday for judging.

The FFA youth, specifically, also get a chance to put up entries in such categories as seed, plants, grain, baled hay, vegetables, horticulture and various farm shop projects such as livestock trailers.

Other kids, like Breanna Wortman, 13, compete in the various horse show categories at the fair where they are judged on not only their horse but on their horsemanship abilities, depending on the class and competition.

But for Wortman, who belongs to Round Prairie 4-H, all of that was yet to come as of Wednesday evening.

Taking one competition at a time, she was busy grooming her mare, Roxanne, in preparation for that night’s open ranch rodeo. Wortman works with a pair of teammates in the youth division to bring home awards in such events as ribbon roping and breakaway.

Wortman said she’s been rodeoing for “quite a while”, though she just started getting serious about it a couple of years ago.

“Before that, I was just kind of playing around I guess,” she said.

Wortman said she likes rodeoing and competing in horse shows being it gives her a chance to ride with her friends and just have a good time.

As for Wednesday night’s event, Wortman wasn’t sure how her team would fare.

“I don’t know, we’ve got some tough competition,” she said. “But we’re just going to do the best we can I guess.”

Neosho Daily News