Despite living much of their lives inside barns and pens, the animals bound for the Wise County Youth Fair undergo a more rigorous exercise regimen than most people.
“Sometimes they look really tired after the treadmill,” said Shelby Drews.
The 17-year-old junior at Decatur High School has been taking care of a small flock of sheep she’ll be showing at next week’s Youth Fair. As the treadmill spins, one of Drews’ sheep marches along, picking up the pace as she slowly increases the speed of the machine.
“I’ll put them on the walker for about 20 minutes,” she said. “Then they’ll run on the treadmill for about five minutes. And sometimes I’ll let them run up the hill.”
Before the animals ever make their way into the dusty show arenas from Decatur to Houston, their caretakers have spent months getting their beasts into shape.
Caylla Cotten and Katarina Scoma, a senior and freshman, respectively, at Decatur High School work daily to get their hogs the best physique possible.
“You have to walk them every day,” Scoma said as she softly swished a whip against Babe’s side, leading him around a little arena in the ag barn.
Scoma lives in a subdivision that doesn’t allow swine. But thanks to the high school ag barn, she and many other students still have a chance to raise these animals.
“I love animals,” she said. “And I thought this would be a great experience and helps teach responsibility.”
The diet is just as crucial as the exercise.
“The front legs on Babe are a little small so I have to give him the correct food for muscle growth,” Scoma said. “Feeding them correctly is a real art.”
“You want a nice line down the middle of their back,” Cotten said. “The judges will be looking at the ham in the back and strong legs in the front. You don’t want them to have a low gut.”
This will be Cotten’s second year showing pigs at the Youth Fair. She admits after spending so much time raising these animals it makes her sad when they finally go to market.
“I remember watching him walking up the ramp and into the back of the truck,” Cotten recalled from last year. “I cried for three hours.”
“I’m probably going to cry, too,” Scoma said. “I probably shouldn’t have named him.”
When she approached the pen Friday morning, the 215-pound hog stuck out his tongue, and then showed off a bottom row of teeth.
“I think my mom might cry more than I do when he finally goes to market,” Scoma said.
Even though these projects are kept at the school, preparing for Youth Fair is oftentimes a family affair.
“My family comes up here, and we spend a lot of time together taking care of them,” Drews said.
Animals aren’t the only show in town. Decatur ag teacher Joey Brooke has been working with some students for almost a year rebuilding a 1955 John Deere 40 tractor. Juniors Scott Gogniat, Jake Cobb and Cody Reed have invested more than 600 man hours de-constructing, refurbishing and rebuilding the antique tractor. They started working on it last May.
“We cranked it up for the first time yesterday,” Reed said. “It was a good feeling.”
Now, after months of early mornings and late nights, students hope their efforts and exercises are enough to win at the Wise County Youth Fair next week.
WINTER WEATHER RETURNS FOR FAIR
Bring out the hats and coveralls. Old Man Winter will again sweep across Wise County just in time for the 2014 Youth Fair.
A cold front is expected to blow through Sunday afternoon dropping temperatures into the 30s and bringing with it light freezing rain and drizzle.
Exhibitors will wake up to temperatures in the 20s Monday morning, and the high isn’t expected to get out of the 30s.
Evan Culpepper, Youth Fair board president, said he’s hoping the roads don’t get icy.
“We can’t move a show to a different time because we don’t have that much flexibility,” he said. “The shows will be at the times they are posted unless the judge can’t show up.”
He said no shows would be canceled, but they might delay the start of some if roads are deemed treacherous.
It could be an issue for the broiler and horse shows, both of which start early Monday morning. Twenty-degree temperatures are also expected Tuesday morning, but there’s no precipitation in the forecast. “I’ve just been telling everyone to bundle up!” Culpepper said.
The Youth Fair kicks off Saturday night with the Queen Contest starting at 7 p.m. at the Women’s Building on the Wise County Fairgrounds. Livestock shows start Monday and continue throughout the week. Youth will also be participating in food competitions, arts and crafts, clothing, photography and ag mechanics contests.
A complete schedule ran in this week’s All Around Wise. It can also be found online at www.wcyouthfair.org. Watch Update next week for a daily list of events.