By Kristin Rover
Just as everything begins to wind down during fair week, several 4-H competitors must spend time preparing for a challenging competition that tests their versatility as showmen.
The showman of showmen competition takes place on Friday after each showman has been selected in the beef cattle, dairy cattle, hogs, market goats, dairy goats, sheep and equine showmanship classes.
The showmen must show each of the different animals in front of judges to determine the showman of showmen.
Makenzie Morris, the equine showmanship winner, said she only just found out she would be competing in the showman of showmen competition on Thursday.
“I learned all the animals in one night,” Morris said.
She said she is excited to participate in the competition for the first time.
“Since it’s my first year, I just want to see if I can show all of the animals and give it my best effort,” Morris said.
Each showman is assigned a number and wears the number on their back for the entire competition so they don’t reveal their names.
The judges score the participants without knowing what their specialty is.
Jerry Fitzgerald, the judge for the equestrian showmanship, said the competition is challenging because the participants have little time to prepare and must know what is important to show each species.
Fitzgerald said for equestrian showmanship, it is important for the horse and showman to work well together and be precise with their change of pace and movements.
“The show person and horse need to make the change of pace at the right place,” Fitzgerald said.
Each judge looks for different techniques and animal handling skills, and the showmen have to be confident and assertive showing all of the animals.
“It’s a unique opportunity to work with everyone else’s animals and see how people work with other animals,” Katie Hill, the hog showmanship winner, said.
Hill said this is her second time participating in the showman of showmen competition. She said the first time she was only 12 years old.
“I know how to deal with animals better now,” Hill said about participating in the competition again.
The competition began this year in the horse arena then moved on to the hog, goat and sheep arena and finished in the cattle arena.
Competitors borrowed animals that were randomly selected to participate in each competition, and judges scored each competitor without knowing his or her name.
Sara Benjamin, the showmanship winner for sheep, said said being a part of the showman of showmen competition for the first time and getting to know the other species has been fun and challenging.
Benjamin said learning how to show horses and cattle was the most challenging. She said she used to be afraid of cattle and has had to overcome her fear learning to show them.
“It’s really neat to step out of my comfort zone,” Benjamin said.
She said being in the showman of showmen competition is special.
“It’s an honor,” Benjamin said. “You worked your way to this.”
At the end of the day, after showing each species, the participant with the best overall score is awarded the showman of showmen title.
This year, the title went to Katie Hill.