Fairs were more than fun rides and funnel cakes for hundreds of youth showing livestock in Montgomery, Mobile and Dothan this fall. Classes for lambs, goats, dairy cattle, beef cattle and hogs all were part of the fairs, sponsored in part by Alfa Insurance and the Alabama Farmers Federation.
“Showing livestock gives young people a valuable opportunity to learn and grow,” said Alfa Insurance and Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “Whether it’s work ethic, responsibility or perseverance, children are learning valuable lessons inside and outside of the show ring. There’s no better family activity, and as a father, I have seen the difference showing livestock has made in my children.”
The Alabama National Fair in Montgomery and the Greater Gulf State Fair in Mobile were Oct. 30-Nov. 8. The National Peanut Festival was Nov. 6-15 in Dothan.
For 10-year-old Nathan Wallace of Wilmer, showing at the Greater Gulf State Fair was a family event. He and his 12-year-old brother, Luke, showed gilts in the county market hog show. Nathan began showing lambs when he was 5, and this year showed an Angus steer, too.
Even with years of experience under his belt, he jumped when the judge slapped his hog on the rump, declaring it the grand champion.
“It was my first time showing hogs so I was excited, and it sort of scared me when that happened,” Nathan said. “It made me feel glad, too, and I was surprised.”
Other young people shared similar feelings about time spent in the barn and show ring.
Kiah Lake of Cullman County won first place in beginner showmanship class in the Alabama National Fair Youth Sheep Show. He said besides competing and winning, showing is enjoyable.
“It’s fun because you get to spend time with your family,” he said. “I want to have fun, but I want to get better every year, too.”
Lakin Whatley, a high school sophomore from Montgomery County, said in addition to responsibility and long-lasting friendships, showing cattle lets her be a voice for agriculture.
“There are a lot of people at the fair who don’t know much about cattle,” said Whatley, who showed at the Alabama National Fair. “Educating people about agriculture is one of my favorite things. It’s important we tell them and teach them the right things.”
The Federation’s Nate Jaeger said livestock shows are at the heart of fall fairs nationwide.
“What you see and hear is the heritage of how fairs started, which was livestock shows,” said Jaeger, the Federation’s Beef, Equine, Hay & Forage, and Meat Goat & Sheep divisions director. “You can come and see the rides, but also come and see youth who are dedicated and learning about responsibility and work ethic.”
For more fair photos, visit Flickr.com/AlabamaFarmers.