Sheep showmanship takes stage at Champaign County Fair

Taylor Ruff gives her sheep a smooch as she shows the animal at the Champaign County Fair Monday. Bill Lackey/Staff
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Taylor Ruff gives her sheep a smooch as she shows the animal at the Champaign County Fair Monday. Bill Lackey/Staff

Sheep can be stubborn and unpredictable.

Champaign County children did their best to show their sheep Monday morning at the Champaign County Junior Fair. The contest pitted the growing skills of young people against the unpredictability of their sheep.

Kids as young as fourth grade handled the lambs and maneuvered them around a show arena in hopes of landing a showman trophy. Hana Delong was crowned the showman of showman this year.

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Judge Adam Coleman said he the event is to encourage young people to learn about raising sheep and handling the stubborn animals.

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“What we’re looking for is someone who’s got full control of their animal,” Coleman said. “That lamb responds to what that exhibitor wants it to do.

“When I talk to the kids I want to know that they are caring for the animal,” he said. “They are not just throwing feed into the animal, we are actually learning about it because we need these young individuals to grow this industry because I’m getting older and a lot of the other guys are getting older and when we get out there’s going to be a need.”

Coleman said every child who participated did a good job and he hopes that they continue working with animals.

Natalie Wallace, a fourth grade student at Mechanicsburg, was competing in an event for the first time Monday. She said she practiced for the showing event often and was excited to get started.

She said she practiced “Basically every night.”

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Wallace said she worked hard to make sure didn’t “get dead last in the showmanship.”

Her parents said she they were proud how she had prepared for the competition and said they liked how it taught her discipline and a work ethic.

Gus Ward and Cayden Hanes, 11-year-old Graham students, had a little more experience in the ring this year. They said getting the sheep to do what they want can be tough.

A couple times sheep jumped when they were not supposed to. Ward said there isn’t much you can do when a sheep decides to take a leap.

“You just let them jump and once they land you get control of it,” he said.

His mother, Rachel Ward, said she enjoyed the fact that her child showed lambs. She said the project requires her son to keep track of the money spent on the sheep, which is a good financial learning experience.

The winners of the showmanship awards were:

Showman of Showman: Hanna Delong

FFA Senior Division: Nate Violet

4-H Senior Divison: Ariana Spina

4-H Intermediate Division: Sam Stickley

4-H Junior Divison: Addie Delong

4-H Rookie Division: Garrett Wallen