2/9/2013 7:00 AM
By Dana Gochenour Virginia Correspondent
HARRISONBURG, Va. — For the Comer family of Shenandoah, Va., the Virginia Club Calf Producers Winter Classic Jackpot show is a standing date on their calendar.
“It’s almost like Christmas,” said Sissy Comer. “You see people you don’t see all year long.”
Sissy, her husband, Bud, and their daughters, Jessica, Cassie and Elissa, have exhibited cattle at the Winter Classic every year since it began in 2006 and have purchased animals at every VCCP sale.
This year Elissa brought two steers and three commercial heifers for the eighth annual event, held Jan. 25-27 at Rockingham County Fairgrounds.
Blustery winds and the threat of snow did nothing to keep folks away. The 580 steer and heifer entries set a record again this year and the second annual Eastern Elite Production Sale, held in conjunction with the show, featured more than 100 lots of bulls, open and bred females, and embryos.
Elissa Comer said she comes to the show for the experience, and to meet new people.
“They really are your show family,” Sissy added.
Sissy estimated that she and Bud have been showing cattle for about 34 years, and all three daughters have followed in their footsteps. The Comers attend three or four other shows each year, but according to Sissy, “None of the others compare to this.”
One of the biggest differences is that every exhibitor gets a prize, regardless of where they place. There are also giveaways before the show even begins. This year each exhibitor left with a T-shirt from Sullivan Supply and a bag of Purina’s Depth Charge feed, among other prizes.
“They do for the kids and that’s what it’s all about,” Sissy said of the VCCP and the show’s sponsors.
This year, the Comers have a new connection to the event; they have been made associate members of the VCCP. This distinction provides them with the right to consign animals to VCCP sales in return for helping with the organization’s events, including the Winter Classic.
Though Sissy downplays it, the Comers make a significant contribution on behalf of the exhibitors. After Sissy’s father, Terry Alger, died, the family wanted to do something in his memory, so Sissy made a quilt and donated it to the auction held every year at the Winter Classic. The club decided to use the money from the quilt to create a scholarship fund, so Sissy has continued the tradition, creating a unique quilt each year.
This year, the VCCP awarded three scholarships: $1,000 to Michael Stephen Cropp of Damascus, Md., and $500 each to Cody Rice of Cassville, W.Va., and Connor Orrock of Woodford, Va.
The 2013 quilt raised $2,250 toward scholarships that will be handed out at the 2014 Winter Classic.
Another highlight of the event was Stock Show University, an acclaimed fitting clinic put on by John Sullivan of Iowa-based Sullivan Supply and a few of his fellow “professors.”
“We attend about 300 shows a year, and this is one of my top three or four favorites,” said Sullivan.
In addition to hosting the clinic, which is free to all of the exhibitors, Sullivan Supply is also a major contributor to the VCCP Scholarship fund and its counterpart, Sullivan Farms, has consigned to the Eastern Elite sale both years.
This year’s consignment, a genetic lot featuring the right to flush Sullivan’s well-known blue roan cow, “Breathless Beauty,” as well as a package of three embryos from the cow by popular club calf sire “Heat Wave,” topped the sale at $8,300.
In Saturday’s heifer show, grand champion honors went to Caleb Potter’s crossbred entry. Melinda Boyd captured the reserve grand champion title with her Shorthorn heifer. Sunday’s steer show belonged to Elizabeth Heintz of Ohio, who took the $1,000 grand prize with her Maine-Anjou steer, as well as the third-place overall with her crossbred steer. The reserve grand champion steer was a crossbred owned by Madison Jones.
Scott Greiner, beef and sheep Extension specialist at Virginia Tech, had the daunting job of placing both shows. Greiner has officiated many state and national beef cattle and sheep shows, most recently serving as one of the judges for the Junior Market Beef show at the 2013 National Western Stock Show in Denver.
He said that he was very impressed with the depth of quality at the VCCP event.