The Kent County Youth Fair (KCYF) is almost here. Kids will be showing still projects, animals, and competing in the horse arena. The week-long event has something for everyone whether it’s looking at animals, seeing projects, eating fair food, or partaking in carnival rides. We caught up with one family who has been preparing since the spring to show pigs and a calf at this year’s fair. The Krueger kids have been doing chores, practicing their showmanship skills, and are ready for what this year has in store for them.
A Family Affair
The Krueger family consists of four kids ranging in age from 4 to 12. While only the older two have reached an age where they can show animals, their two younger siblings are learning from their example. Brayden, age 12, will be bringing his first dairy feeder calf to the fair, but he’s got showing experience. This will be his third year showing swine. Adelle is 9 and this will be her first year handling swine. Ciarra is 7 and she is considered an explorer as she learns from her older siblings. This knowledge will help her when she’s old enough to show an animal of her own. Four year old Lexi also gets right in on the action during chores and will be ready for explorer status when it’s time. They are part of the County Line 4H Club.
Preparing for and taking part in the Kent County Youth Fair in regard to showing animals is no easy feat. It takes months of dedication on the part of the kids involved as well as the rest of their family. Typically, in early spring a family will decide what animal(s) to raise and show at the fair. They’re usually purchased and brought home when they’re able to leave their mom. Brayden started taking care of his calf the beginning of March. The pigs arrived the week after spring break, in early April.
Baby animals can be cute but they grow quickly. “When kids participate in a 4H project it teaches them great responsibility. They are in charge or feeding, cleaning pens and animal, EVERYDAY.” comments Cheri Krueger of her kids’ participation in the fair. You can’t take a day off because you’re tired of tending to an animal. Kids learn about having to make sure enough feed is on hand and how the animals in their care depend on them. And as the animals get older and the fair gets closer, they need to be worked with so they can show properly when the time comes.
Daily chores take an average of an hour to hour and a half to complete. And oftentimes multiple feeding trips are needed throughout the day. “You have to clean the pens a lot, even when it is very hot and humid.” says Brayden explaining one of the worst things about having to tend to the animals in his care. The Krueger kids have raised animals which will take part in two events. In one, they will show their animal in a ring before a judge. They will be marked on their performance and how they interact with their animal. Second, their animal will be judged based on looks. Think of it as an animal beauty pageant where the better you show the more likely you are to fetch top dollar when animals are auctioned off.
Preparation for Showing
As the week of fair approaches, the focus on merely feeding an animal shifts to working with it. Kids and animals need practice for showing in a ring. The more an animal is worked with prior to the fair, the better its chances are of placing. Daily baths give kids the opportunity to handle animals as they get used to being handled. Spending time together each day, the kids and animals get to know each other. Brayden enjoys teaching the animals as he watches them grow.
Brayden and Adelle practice waking their pigs around the yard using short whips to control their direction. During showmanship at fair, they must stand and move around such that the pig is between them and the judge at all times. They should continue to make eye contact while following directions from the judge such as moving from one place to another. As with any animal, a lack of practice and training could lead to an uncontrolled pig come fair time.
Walking a pig around will help him or her gain muscle mass, which is considered a good thing when looking for a pig to turn into ham and bacon. Animals are also judged on their looks and weight. Pigs must weigh in between 230 and 300 pounds in order to qualify for showing. So it’s important throughout the course of raising the pig for fair that weight is monitored. The runt of the litter may not qualify and an animal who likes to come back for seconds and thirds may have to slim down.
Similar to pigs, calves also show in the ring with an owner. Brayden uses a cattle show stick help set his calve, making front feet in line with each other and the same with the rear set. A calf who is used to resetting his or her feet will find the movement natural in front of a judge.
An Investment in Time, Money, and the Future
Kids showing at the fair work with their animals during the end of the school year and much of their summer vacation. It’s easy for people who visit the fair seeking out cute animals to take for granted all that is involved in getting to the fair. Kids who participate and have animals sold at auction will see their efforts rewarded in the form of a monetary payment. It’s not a given that a profit is made each year. Other lessons kids learn are tracking expenses, sending buyer letters to businesses and individuals they hope will bid on their animal and what to do with their earnings.
According to Krueger, her kids get to keep the money they earn when their animals are sold at auction. However, they don’t go on extravagant spending sprees. A little money is used for fun but the majority goes into savings. Savings for next year’s fair and their future.
The kids use their own money for supplies such as brushes, whips, and feed pans. Krueger hopes her kids learn some life lessons from their fair experience expressing, “I have seen the kids treat their own things a little better. I think it comes full circle, they are less to think about themselves, and hopefully this teaches them to think about others’ needs more.” She reminds Brayden that the fair earnings he has received each year can be used toward the purchase of a car when he’s 16 or another bigger expense. He’s learning the value of earning money and saving for his future.
Off to Auction
Thursday of fair week, the livestock auction will take place in the Reath Barn beginning at noon. A buyer’s number is required in order to participate in the auction. This number can be obtained by pre-registering using online forms. The KCYF office can be contacted with questions about registering as a livestock (or still exhibit) buyer at 616-897-6050. Those interested in bidding on an animal but aren’t able to be in attendance during the auction can fill out an absentee bidding form and someone will take care of the request. Additionally, for those who wish to donate to the sale price of a particular animal can do so through by filling out an Add-A-Bid form. This is perfect for an individual or business wanting to support an exhibitor by adding to the sale of an animal without having to purchase an entire animal. Buyers who purchase an animal have options which include taking the animal live, sending the animal off for processing then pick up, donating it back to the exhibitor, or have the animal processed and then donated to a local food pantry. Flat River Outreach Ministries is include on this list.
The livestock auction is an important last step in the process of showing at the fair and seeing a reward for months of hard work. “They are learning how to keep track of expenses, feed, equipment, and hay in a record book which also has to be turned in the week of fair.” says Krueger of all the kids who show during fair week. “As they keep track, they can see what improvements they need to make the next year, and hopefully be making a profit.” More information about the livestock auction can be found on the KCYF’s website.
KCYF on the Horizon
Excitement is building as the Kent County Youth Fair is set to kick off in just a few days. Take time this year to see and do something different. When asked what the best thing about participating in fair events, Brayden Krueger says, “Showmanship, showing the animals at fair, and the auction. All the work we put into the animals all year long, and seeing the results at fair. Plus getting a check when we sell animals is nice too.” His sister, Adelle, says, “It is fun and [I] get to meet a lot of people. After fair is done you get to have lots of bacon, from our pigs.”
Kids have put in a lot of time to participate in still and live exhibits and horse riding events. Let them know you recognize and appreciate their efforts. These kids are learning important lessons now, which will hopefully stick with them as they become adults.
This year’s fair will be “unforgoatable”. Information on the fair and events happening throughout the week can be found at the KCYF website.