When Olivia Funson walked her Charolais heifer, Cupcake, into the ring during the Lycoming County Fair’s 4-H Beef Show, handling the animal was no treat.
Funson, 9, held on tight but lost her grip twice as the energetic heifer decided to trot instead of walk. Funson didn’t give up, staying in the ring to bring the animal under control and finish out the breeding class portion of the show.
And when it was over, Funson held onto Cupcake’s halter with one hand, and a grand champion banner in the other.
It wasn’t a bad way to start her first year of showing cattle.
“It will be tough to top,” Funson said. “It was hard a couple times and I tried to pull her back in circle, but she slipped out of my hand. I didn’t want to give up, and I’m glad I didn’t.”
The show, held on July 19, signified a return to the ring for the 4-H’ers after last year’s fair was canceled due to pandemic restrictions.
Leonard Bower, chairman of the beef show, said the 44 entries were down slightly from previous years, but the drop wasn’t unexpected.
“With the uncertainty with COVID, some people were a little shy about buying a project, not knowing if there would be a fair this year,” he said. “With the way the year was, I’m happy with the number of entries, and the kids are very enthusiastic to get in the ring again.”
Back in the Ring
Allie Kiess, 18, of Cogan Station, said she had a beautiful steer with a lot of potential ready to show at the 2020 fair before it was canceled. The animal went to the butcher instead of the show ring.
This year, Kiess had a second chance in her last year of eligibility for 4-H shows. Her market steer, an Angus named Bear, took home the grand champion honor in that class.
“I was a little nervous how it would do because of how big he was,” Kiess said of the steer, which weighed 1,484 pounds. “I was feeding him barley to tighten him up, and he really handled himself well in the ring.”
Kiess had worked with the steer almost daily since January. A few weeks before the fair, she turned her focus on training the animal’s hair and walking it.
At the same time, after a year hiatus from showing animals, Kiess had to brush up on her show ring skills.
“It’s hard not showing for a year, then come back and get right back into the groove,” she said. “I was pretty nervous, with a lot of jitters.”
The runner-up to Kiess in the market class was 10-year-old Grace Winter, whose 1,221-pound Angus steer, Solomon, won reserve grand champion. The show was Winter’s first experience in a beef competition, and she had worked with the animal every day since October.
“I thought he could do well because his frame looked nice and he was square,” said Winter, who is from Cogan Station. “I was nervous in there, but it was exciting to see him do well.”
The show lasted more than four hours on a hot, steamy night. Some of the younger competitors had a bit of a challenge controlling the more spirited animals, but despite a few pauses and some tears, they always returned to the ring and finished the show.
The perseverance of the kids was something that caught the eye of Bradley Gill, who served as judge.
“When I see that, it really gives me the drive knowing how hard these kids have worked and they’re not giving up,” Gill said. “That’s what a 4-H show does. It’s about desire and building confidence in these kids.”
And just like the competitors and organizers who eagerly welcomed a return to the ring, Gill was enthusiastic to get back to it.
“I average about 25 shows a year, and last year I did just three. It’s important that shows like this returned, because the county fair is where these kids learn and can move up levels in the show world,” he said. “It’s exciting for me to be back and work with these kids again.”