Junior Spring Beef Classic brings out youth to watch, learn
By Jim Troyer
The 2009 Minnesota Junior Spring Beef Classic Saturday and Sunday was more about kids than cattle.
In its second year at the Mower County Fairgrounds, the event drew 125 youngsters and 192 animals, increases of 25 and 53 percent. Add in parents, adult leaders and staff and the crowd gave the scene a county-fair atmosphere.
Classic Coordinator Heidi Allen attributes enthusiasm for the Beef Classic to the event’s goal of educating youngsters, to its location in southern Minnesota and to the buildings at the fairgrounds.
"Everyone is impressed with the facilities here," she said. "We have already scheduled Austin for next year."
It wasn’t always that way, fairgrounds caretaker Ron Osmon recalls. The turn-around for Mower County came in 2003 with new construction and an improvement program that keeps on going.
"We don’t have to worry about rain anymore," he said with a broad smile. "There is a ring of concrete and asphalt around the buildings."
It is a well planned area with wash racks and stalls for animals and even showers for campers just steps away from Crane Pavilion. There are even tie-downs for steers that prefer being outside.
Jake Sirek of Sirek Angus in Elko was unloading equipment from his trailer in the parking lot when he took time out to sum up what the Beef Classic is all about.
"All of the kids who show for us, five of them from three different families, are here," he said. "They learn how to take care of their animals, feed them, groom and train them."
He said the Boot Camp would help prepare the youngsters and actually showing their animals on Sunday would provide a great learning experience. "There are some great judges out there," he said.
Sirek’s sister, Sandy Rezac, and her daughter, Anna, 14, were just inside the building next to Crane Pavilion.
After working that morning, Anna was napping between her two Holstein heifers, leaning back against one and resting her legs on the other.
The Holsteins are a two-year 4-H project that ends this year. Her mother worries a bit about how Anna will react to parting with them when the project is over. "It’s going to be hard, but it’s part of life."
Having spent 11 years in 4-H herself and 16 years as an adult leader, she knows what the instructors mean when they talk about "dedication."
This group of parents, uncles and youngsters is from the Webster Willing Workers 4-H Club in the New Prague area. Like-minded clusters of adults, kids and extremely well-groomed animals surrounded Crane Pavilion.
Trevor, 9, and his mother, Ronda, were also there from the Webster 4-H Club.
Boot Camp, which started promptly at 2 p.m., was the main event of the first day. Todd Franz presented his first session on feeding to the youngest of the participants (primary school to the eighth grade). More accustomed to lecturing college graduates on the topic, he admitted that it is a challenge.
But the youngsters were eager and there was a strong contingent of parents in the group. Franz hit the basics hard.
"Mark that show date and work forward," he told them. "There’s nothing worse than being behind on the 4th of July with the county fair coming up."
"Consistency" and watching your animals closely is critical to any feeding program, he said. "The good feeders are the ones who can read that pan and keep moving along."
"How can you get them to eat more?" he asked.
"Add water to the feed," a young voice answered.
"That’s right, but be careful. Once you do that, they won’t want to eat it dry anymore. It’s just like you putting milk on your cereal."
There was sage advice over in the clipping presentation too. "You can always take hair off," said Brad Hanewich. "It’s hard to put any back on."
"Working with youth is pretty much my life," he said after his second two-hour session on the basics of grooming. "First of all I love kids. I want them to learn."
It was the sixth such event for him this year as an ambassador for Acco Feeds, Oster Clipper Corp., and Showmaster
"This is a huge event," he said. "I’ve played in three sports and this is the most competitive thing a kid can be involved in; and it teaches tons of responsibility."
Hanewich says his best memories of being young were "getting into the pickup truck with his mom and dad and sister and driving, sometimes hours, to show our cattle," he said. "These kids are out there feeding calves in the snow. It teaches them discipline but it is something fun too."
Trevor came away much impressed from the showmanship workshop he attended. "I learned how to hold my hand on the chain and let it stay loose," he said. But he was equally enthusiastic about heading back to the Holiday Inn at the end of the sessions. "They have a swimming pool and miniature golf," he said.
Troyer is a freelance writer from Austin, Minn.