It was a banner year for Jessamine County livestock and showmen at the 2012 Kentucky State Fair in August, as local youth brought home titles in four different species categories, with three sets of siblings highlighting the awards.
Animals are divided into classes for the competition, with class winners moving on to the champion drive for their breed and those winners moving to the overall champion drive for the species. Awards are also presented to individuals for their showmanship of the animals.
The Culp sisters Kelsey and Laurel brought home high honors in beef, with Kelsey showing the grand champion Chianina heifer and Laurel showing the supreme champion bull and the Kentucky Proud champion heifer. Perhaps most significantly, though, the Culps became the first set of siblings in recent memory to win first and second in showmanship, with Laurel named the supreme champion heifer showman and Kelsey the reserve supreme champion.
“To win a class in showmanship at the state fair is a huge deal, because there are some very experienced showmen out there,” said Christie Hack, an agriculture teacher and FFA adviser at Jessamine Career and Technology Center. “Laurel and Kelsey being supreme and reserve supreme in heifer showmanship is incredible.”
Laurel, a 15-year-old sophomore at East Jessamine High School, has been showing at the state fair since 2005 and said the tension is one of her favorite parts.
“When I’m in the the show ring in the champion lineup and the judge comes over and shakes my hand, I always get this rush,” she said. “It’s a great feeling when you know you just have won.”
It was an emotional event for Kelsey, a 21-year-old senior at Morehead State University, as it was her last year to show in the youth division. She said her little sister has been her biggest competition “by far.”
“I can’t help but be proud of (Laurel) and be happy for her,” Kelsey said. “Even though she beats me sometimes, she deserves it. It was great being there with her, and having that feeling that my sister dominated in the ring made my last year even more special. She truly deserves everything she won, and I hope her success continues.”
In sheep, it was brother and sister Jessey and Kasey Craig who headlined the Jessamine County awards, with 21-year-old Jessey showing the grand champion market lamb, the champion black-face-cross market lamb, the champion natural market lamb and the reserve champion Kentucky Proud market lamb. Jessey had traveled to the midwest earlier this year and bought four lambs to exhibit, but three of them died — the one who lived was the grand champion.
“A lot of kids would have gotten discouraged and given up, but not him,” said Jessey’s mother, Charlene Canter. “He said, “I’m going to keep at it; we don't know what’s going to happen.”
Kasey, a 15-year-old sophomore at East Jessamine High School, had the champion Suffolk market lamb, rounding out an unprecedented year for the family.
“In 30 years of showing, we had never had a day like that at the state fair,” Canter said.
All five lambs who left Jessamine County for the state fair won their classes.
Derrick Simpson, a 16-year-old Jessamine County home-schooler, won first place in the goat “skillathon,” which involves judging, showmanship and a written test. His 14-year-old sister, Casey, was the reserve showmanship champion in her age category and showed the champion lightweight market goat.
Showing at the state fair is the culmination of hard work throughout the year that centers on exercise and diet for the animals, Hack said.
“We’ve got several goat students who actually have built tracks that they will run their goats around to build muscle,” she said. “There are lots of different things you can do to prepare your animal; the big thing is just to exercise and to have a good nutrition program. A lot of it is figuring out nutritionally what you need to do to get that animal where you want it.”
In the dairy competitions, 12-year-old Tyler Berryman was the showmanship winner for the Guernsey division.
“I think I did so well at the fair because of all the hard work I put in this year with my animals,” said Berryman, a seventh-grader at East Jessamine Middle School. “It takes lots of hours of working with your animals to train them to do what you need them to do.”
Shows are divided between market animals — which will be sold for meat — and breeding animals. Hack said most Jessamine County youth show market livestock because they can then sell the animals in a youth sale the week after the fair for “much more” than market price.
The elder showmen have plans to continue on in the field now that their youth showing days are over. Jessey Craig hopes to travel and pick out show lambs for FFA and 4-H youth; Kelsey Culp graduates in May and plans to work for the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association or sell livestock pharmaceuticals.
Hack said this year’s state fair was unique because of Jessamine County’s success across all the species.
“Just a couple of years ago, most of our Jessamine County team stood near the bottom of each of our classes,” Derrick Simpson said. “Now most of our Jessamine County team is standing together near the top. It’s more fun near the top.”