Children, Teens Put Their Animals In ‘Beauty Contest'
By EMILY GUEVARA Staff Writer
The goats held their heads high, seemingly stretching their necks, bodies and hind legs posing for the judge who was about to decide which one was the best.
The eyes of the students showing their animals seemed fixed on the judge as they followed his every move.
Judge Richard Watson surveyed the animals and occasionally felt them looking for the perfect combination of bones, muscle and fat.
The behavior of the goats whether they jumped, stood still or bleated was of less importance than how they looked. And looks are only important for what they say about the inside.
"It's like a beauty contest basically is what it is," he said before the show. "But you still want a lot of muscle."
The students and their goats paraded around the small arena Thursday during the first day of the Smith County Junior Livestock Show at the East Texas State Fairgrounds in Tyler.
The show continues at 9 a.m. today and will run through 6 p.m. Saturday. About 175 students will show animals including swine, steers, heifers, goats, lambs, market and breeding rabbits, and broiler and roaster chickens. Students also will show home economics projects, horticulture projects, agriculture mechanics projects and compete in a welding contest.
Show President Lana Slover said students came from the Arp, Troup, Whitehouse, Tyler, Chapel Hill and Lindale school districts as well as Smith County 4-H. Students have to belong to an organization such junior FFA, FFA or 4-H.
"These kids are learning about the food chain," she said. "It teaches them respect. It teaches them how to take care of their animals. It teaches them ethics, morals and responsibility."
The students typically work on the projects throughout the school year but raise the animals at home for several months to a year.
Participants have to be at least 8 years old and in third grade and can continue through their senior year in high school. The peewee division is for children younger than 8.
Robert E. Lee High School freshman Mintie Betts, 15, was the showmanship winner as well as the first place in Class 3 and fifth overall with her goat, Maze.
She said she got started showing rabbits in 2009. Her brother and his friends inspired her to show. She said animals take at least one hour daily of work and two to three hours right before a show.
"I'm a very competitive person, but I enjoy making friends," she said of her participation.
The Grand Champion and Reserve Champion were Alex Johnson and Gage Wells, respectively.
Johnson, 19 and a Lee senior, is part of the Smith County 4-H Show Team. This was his second time to win at this competition. Watson, the judge, praised Johnson's one-eared goat, Henry, for his structural correctness.
"He's put together real nice; he's got that good muscle," Watson said.
Johnson said his tasks include feeding, exercising, washing and clipping his goat. He said to help his goat exercise, he put a fence around a treadmill and the goat has to walk for three minutes a day.
"He is just a very powerful goat and he (has) a lot of muscle in him," Johnson said. "That's how we win and he (has) good feet in him."
Gage, 9, a third-grader at East Texas Christian Academy, was the Reserve Champion. He received first place in the fifth class and first place in showmanship.
"It felt great," Gage said of the victory. "I've won several competition
Gage said to prepare for shows, he walks his goat on the treadmill and braces him, which means teaching him to stand a certain way to show off more muscle.
He said he wants to continue showing goats as long as he can.
Watson said this event is the climax of the feeding period for Smith County students. Some have been feeding steers for almost a year, lambs and goats for five to six months and pigs four to five months.
"I like to see that kid that's worked so hard and you know that he's worked hard or she's worked hard because of the way that the animal performs," he said. "I like to see that and they're rewarded at the end, you know, today, for what they have accomplished all the way through this feeding period."
Karlie Kerner, 14, of Lindale, hangs out in the show barn waiting to show her goat at the East Texas State Fairgrounds on Thursday. (Staff Photo By Christopher R. Vinn)