All for Ken: Cows Honor Death of Fair Fixture

9/7/2013 7:00 AM
By Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade Special Sections Editor

MESHOPPEN, Pa. — Excitement buzzed around the Kiwanis Wyoming County Fair dairy show ring last Saturday as judge Ken Young pulled Ken Teel March Alfa Faith out for the open show grand champion Holstein drive.

Exhibitors wondered if Young would select the 6-year-old cow as his champion, giving a dairy tribute a classic storybook ending.

Although Young loved the cow, he opted to stay with his youth division Holstein champions. For the Teel family, along with Steve VanKuren and Alyssa Sprout Brace, the day was still a complete success and met their goal of honoring Ken Teel.

They collected the Holstein premier breeder and exhibitor banners, and earned the Don Arthur Memorial Best Bred and Owned Holstein Award.

Ken Teel died in February after a yearlong battle with cancer. Teel was a regular fixture at the Kiwanis Wyoming County Fair and in the farm community — establishing the fair’s tractor pull, serving on the dairy show committee and organizing the fair’s kiddie tractor pull.

Teel grew up on a dairy farm and earned the Star Farmer Award with his dairy projects at Elk Lake High School. He married Connie Teel, and they established Ken Teel Farms in 1964. According to Connie, Ken loved to show cattle.

“We had 35 cattle when we first got started,” Connie Teel said. “We just grew, grew and grew.”

At its peak, the farm milked 105 registered Holsteins. The couple expended the barn three times. When they decided to slow down, they reduced the herd to 70 milking cows.

Today, Connie Teel owns the farm and son Roger Teel manages it. The farm is listed as a Dairy of Distinction.

Enter VanKuren and Brace. After taking a break from showing cows, Brace had a desire to get back into the game.

VanKuren had purchased a couple of calves from Ken Teel last fall and suggested he should take a show string to the fair. Teel said he did not have the time.

After Teel’s death, Brace and VanKuren came up with an idea — show Teel’s cows in his honor.

“Roger said the fair was honoring Kenny with the tractor pull, and I said why don’t we honor your father by taking his cattle back out?” VanKuren said.

The Teel family agreed.

VanKuren and Brace traveled to early summer shows to get a feel for what type of cattle were finding success in the show ring. They spent every spare moment at the farm walking and washing cows. Roger Teel gave them full access to select animals.

“We went from a couple of cows, to this,” Brace said of the 12 Holsteins they selected to show.

VanKuren said cattle selection was challenging because “nothing was born right,” referring to having calves born at the beginning of their age classes. But, the quality cattle were there.

“They were the nicest cattle, the quietest cattle,” he said.

Roger Teel said his father bred cows for three things — type, milk and legs.

A couple of Holsteins selected were descendents of Ken Teel’s former show cows. Teel had shown Faith as a heifer.

Roger, his wife, Brandy, and Connie Teel found the farm’s show display, farm sign and supplies. The display got a fresh coat of paint — red and black — in honor of Teel’s love of International tractors.

A sign reading “All for Ken” was placed above the cow name signs. Brace and Brandy Teel organized the display. Photos of Ken Teel showing cows and working around the farm were also hung on the display.

Show day arrived and the Ken Teel Farms team donned their red farm shirts and headed to the show ring.

“We wanted to honor Ken. Today was the icing on the cake. I am honored they let me exhibit such fine cattle,” VanKuren said. “These are the cattle he bred in his lifetime.”

Roger Teel, Connie Teel and Brace talked about a sense they had throughout the summer and show morning where they believed Ken Teel was with them.

As they took each heifer and cow into the ring, they collected several best bred and owned ribbons. They were first, second or third with all the animals.

Connie Teel described the day as bittersweet.

“I was excited to have it happen, but was also sad,” she said, remembering her husband.

Roger Teel said he knew his father was smiling his trademark smile as the cows went into the ring and was proud that his cows were back at the fair.

After winning the banners, Connie Teel found she had come full circle. The first year she and Ken won the supreme champion banner, they started the dairy barn pizza party tradition.

This year, she and Roger found they were hosts for another party with the other banner winners.

“I had the most fun this summer,” Brace said. “I spent more time at the Teel farm than I ever did with my own cows in the 20 years I showed.”

“Everyone else went on vacation and I showed cows and I have no regrets,” VanKuren said.

The Teels are now an extended family for Brace and VanKuren. And they could return with the Ken Teel herd again next year.

“There are two summer yearlings I have picked out,” VanKuren said. “And September calves will soon be here.”

Ken Teel was honored in other ways at the fair. This year, the tractor pulling track was dedicated in his honor.

Also a member of the fair’s dairy show committee, Teel’s name will be added to the honor roll plaque at the dairy show ring recognizing dairy show volunteers.

Outside the fair, Ken Teel was also involved with other county and state organizations, such as the Wyoming/Lackawanna County Holstein Club, president of the Wyoming/Lackawanna County Farm Bureau, Susquehanna County DHIA director, Ag Choice Farm Credit director and Wyoming County Pullers Association president.

Sherwood Wins <\n>Supreme Champion

Long-Brook RL Sweeti-Pi-Red, a senior 2-year-old and Red and White grand champion was selected as the Robert Parr Open Supreme and the Brent Cook Youth Supreme Champion.

Carly Sherwood of Meshoppen owns the supreme champion.

The other youth and open breed champions were: Ayrshire, Hol-tran Riggins Sprinkles owned by Montanna Cole of Meshoppen; Brown Swiss Hills Valley Brookings Cobra owned by Richard Sharer of Laceyville; Guernsey, Jon-Ann Yogibear Honeysuckle owned by Kyle Bonavita of Meshoppen; Holstein, Arethusa Jet Karmen-ET owned by Matthew Deome of Montrose; Jersey, Sweet-Peas Tequila Desire owned by Matthew Deome of Montrose; and Milking Shorthorn, Woodsey-Dell Lran Roselyn-ET owned by Douglas Brooks of Hop Bottom.

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