By Debra Davis
Exhibitors from across the state loaded up pigs, goats, sheep and cattle for a chance to compete for ribbons and cash at the Alabama National Fair in Montgomery Oct. 8-18.
Nearly 250 exhibitors competed in the events, profiling their animals after months of preparation.
“Exhibitors spend hours feeding, grooming and training their show projects,” said the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Brady Ragland, who helped coordinate the fair’s livestock shows at Garrett Coliseum. “At a time where many shows around the country were forced to cancel due to COVID-19, I think most exhibitors were grateful to step into the show ring again. It takes a lot of effort to plan a large event in a normal year, but this year posed exceptional challenges.”
Ansley Brown of Ramer in Montgomery County competed in dairy and beef cattle shows. The 12 year old said showing cattle takes a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it. She won first place in her dairy showmanship class, and her Jersey heifer placed second in her breed class. Ansley’s Red Angus heifers were named champion and reserve champion for the breed.
“I first showed dairy cows at the fair when I was 5 or 6, and I loved it,” said the Hooper Academy seventh grader. “I first learned to love cattle riding around the pasture with my grandpa and going to my friend’s house because she showed cattle.”
In addition to feeding her cows twice daily, Ansley routinely grooms and exercises her calves. Her parents, Jeremy and Lindsey Brown, said showing livestock teaches children responsibility and decision making.
Rose Hodnett of Wadley in Randolph County said she was glad the fair finally allowed her to show her pig. Normally, she participates in more than 20 shows a year, but that’s dropped to less than five shows since the pandemic.
“A lot of shows were canceled this year, and that was disappointing,” said the 10 year old. “Plus, a pig usually gets better the more you show it.”
Purchasing a show pig is an investment, said Rose’s mother, Jessica Hodnett. It pays dividends that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.
“She knows when we purchase a pig that she’s committed,” Jessica said. “The responsibility she learns is a big part of it. She takes care of the feeding, washing and grooming, plus she knows the stalls have to be cleaned. It’s also helped her be more confident, and she’s learned how to communicate better. She’s learned how to talk to a judge when they ask questions, and she’s made friends from all over.”
In addition to traditional fair classes, the Federation and Alfa Insurance sponsored the Alfa Jackpot Show. The event gave beef cattle exhibitors an opportunity to show their animals under another judge before heading home.
“I want to personally thank staff members and volunteers who made the 2020 Alabama National Fair and Alfa Jackpot Show a success,” Ragland said. “Seeing so many exhibitors who were eager to participate and the appreciation they had was especially rewarding.”
Alabama National Fair livestock shows photos are available online at Flickr.com/photos/alabamafarmers/albums.