A tradition more than 50 years old returns to Bishop this week with hundreds of hard-working youth and their locally raised livestock in tow.
Future Farmers of America students and 4-H members from the Eastern Sierra and neighboring Nevada counties will converge on the Tri-County Fairgrounds for nearly a week of activities that showcase both the quality of their animals and the youths’ skill and dedication in raising and caring for them.
The annual Eastern Sierra Junior Livestock Show and Auction begins tomorrow, July 13, and concludes Saturday, July 16 with the much-anticipated auction – where exhibitors hope to literally see their efforts over the past several months pay off with each successive bid.
“The Eastern Sierra Junior Livestock Show and Auction is the highlight of a year of hard work and dedication for our local 4-H and FFA livestock exhibitors,” Junior Livestock Auction Committee President Steve Nelson said in a letter that went out to prospective buyers. “Your attendance at the show, and your purchase of an animal the night of the sale, will help us continue to demonstrate the unmatched level of support and commitment our community has for our youth.”
In between Wednesday morning and Saturday evening, youth will participate in shows and showmanship events for rabbits, turkey, poultry, breeding beef, market beef, breeding sheep, breeding swine, market swine, dairy goats, pygmy goats and market lambs. (For a full schedule of events, see pg. 3.)
The exhibitors’ animals will be judged on various criteria (proper weight, muscle mass, grooming, etc.), as will the young men and women themselves, such as how they handle the animals in the show ring and conduct themselves under pressure.
The youngest participants are known as primary exhibitors and range in age from 6-9; they mainly show the smaller animals like rabbits and fowl.
The older youth, ages 9-19, specialize in the larger animals like steers and swine.
Not lost on many spectators is the behind-the-scenes work that goes into each and every show ring appearance, not to mention the incredible amount of labor and time each youth spent raising, caring for and learning about their specific animal in the year prior to the Junior Livestock Show.
Each exhibitor purchases his or her animal outright earlier in the year; from there, they are responsible for its feeding, exercise and overall health – including making sure it is thriving, properly sheltered from the elements and has its shots and any other medication as needed. All of this is done before, after and – in the case of FFA students – during school. Many of the youth balance their school work and livestock projects with their responsibilities at home and part-time jobs.
Community members are not only strongly encouraged to come out to the fairgrounds this week and watch the FFA and 4-H members in action, they’re also urged to engage the youth by asking questions about the various livestock projects, the benefits of locally grown meat and agriculture in general.
Doing so, 4-H club leaders have explained, helps the youth draw on the knowledge they’ve been gaining through 4-H or FFA, and reinforces in their minds that what they’re doing is valued by the community at-large.
The public’s support at Saturday’s auction, slated to begin at 6 p.m. in the main sale barn, is particularly crucial.
Many exhibitors – all of those raising market animals – depend on the auction to make back the money they’ve invested purchasing and raising their animals. Any profits seen at auction are generally used by the exhibitor on the following year’s livestock project, and in some cases contributes to their college funds.
Of course, supporting the auction also benefits the buyers, Nelson said.
“Your support provides not only an incentive for our junior exhibitors to take pride in their livestock projects; but, also provides a unique opportunity to demonstrate your personal commitment to our youth, or to promote your business through public recognition of your purchase,” Nelson said. “You’ll also receive a top quality product that you can enjoy with your family and friends.”
The top 10 buyers of 2010, and among those to be honored at Saturday’s Buyers’ Thank You Dinner (4 p.m. in the Charles Brown Auditorium; $5 per person), are the Bishop Paiute Tribe, Manor Market, Giggle Springs, Eureka Fuel Company, Joseph’s Bi-Rite Market, Carol Symons, Jeff Griffiths, Rock Creek Lodge, Dave and Roma McCoy and the Dohnel family.
According to Nelson, each and every purchase – no matter how large or how small – is deeply appreciated.
Dr. Carl Lind will again offer his services as a proxy buyer, for anyone who wants to support the exhibitors but is unable to attend the auction, or who wants to purchase only a half or quarter of an animal. This last option tends to be popular among households with a taste for locally raised meat but very little freezer space. It’s not uncommon for several families to pool their resources, and go in on an animal together, with Lind doing the bidding on their behalf.
Residents have also been known to donate lump sums to the auction, wishing nothing in return.
For more information about proxy bids, or to make arrangements for a purchase, contact Dr. Lind at the Bishop Veterinary Hospital at (760) 873-5801) or at home (760) 872-3835.
While the Junior Livestock Show and Auction is the chance for youth to put their leadership, business, time management, sportsmanship, public relations and of course livestock-raising skills to the test, it is also a time for camaraderie and fun.
4-H club leaders have pointed out that the show serves as a sort of reunion for many of the youth, who look forward to seeing each other again since the close of school or last year’s show – youth do, after all, come from as far away locally as Olancha, Benton and Coleville/Walker, and from Minden, Carson City, Tonopah and Dyer in Nevada.
And several events on Saturday – the “Beauty Contest,” Alumni Showmanship and Little Britches Showmanship – give the young men and women a chance to relax and blow off some steam in anticipation of the high-profile auction.
New this year is the Friday Night Neon Lights Dance, hosted from 8-10 p.m. in the Home Economics Building by the Inyo-Mono 4-H Clubs. All 4-H and FFA youth are invited to attend and encouraged to bring one age-appropriate guest each for a couple hours of socializing and dancing to tunes provided by a deejay. Soft drinks, photos and other goodies will be for sale, with proceeds benefiting local 4-H clubs. Admission is $5 at the door.