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Spotlight on kids and their animals as the California Mid-Winter Fair kicks off its 10-day run in Imperial

March 03, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

As carefully as they can, kids in FFA chapters from throughout the Imperial Valley maneuver their pigs around the arena as they keep their eyes glued to the judge.

Not far away kids in local 4-H clubs do their best to hold their calves still as a judge walks back and forth while looking over the animals.

In yet another arena, a group of 4-H kids listen as a judge talks about what he is looking for in the sheep that would take home the top market ribbons.

In a busy first weekend at the California Mid-Winter Fair & Fiesta, FFA and 4-H youth from throughout the Imperial Valley showed their animals on a Saturday that for many started before daybreak.


The day was not an easy one for the kids who raised the large animals that ranged from pigs (technically swine) to sheep and goats, to calves and steers.

Raising such animals takes work and it is a project youth interviewed Saturday said they take seriously, both because in the end they are hoping to sell their animals and earn money for their education, and because they are learning what it is to care for an animal.

This week will not be an easy one for the 4-H and FFA youth.

There is pressure to have a good showing during the judging.

There is pressure as to whether their animal will sell during auction or in the barn.

There is pressure in just moving their animals around the fairgrounds — some kids are outweighed by their animals by quite a bit.

And, in many cases, youth said it is tough to realize that after working with, training and caring for their animals for many months, the start of the fair means it is nearly time to say goodbye to their animals.

"That's the sad part," said George Ramirez, 14, of the Calipatria FFA.

George, who showed a pig named Daisy on Saturday, was covered in sweat after judging was finished.

"This was my first year doing this," George said. "I was nervous. I didn't know what to do. We practiced, but this is different because there are so many people."

George, like all the youth showing their animals Saturday, was hoping for a gold ribbon. That piece of gold would gain him entrance into the auction scheduled next Saturday.

George didn't make it. He received a blue ribbon, which means he will sell his pig in the barn. Still, he said he wasn't disheartened. In fact, he looks forward to raising a pig again for the next fair.

That attitude was shared by all the youth interviewed Saturday. They said while it is hard work having to wake up early to care for their animal and work with it for hours after school, they enjoy doing it.

Some said they have been raising animals for a number of years; others said this was their first year. In all cases, the kids said they plan to return next year.

Daniel Wise, 15, of Imperial FFA, was waiting for his chance to show off his lamb named Shamalamba. Like George, Daniel raised an animal for the first time this year.

"I'm a bit nervous because I've never done this before," he said. "It seemed like a fun activity and I just love animals, so it is pretty fun."

Franchesca Perez, 15, also of the Imperial FFA, had a little trouble with her lamb, Princess, as she waited for her turn to show.

Princess managed to knock Franchesca down. With a laugh, Franchesca got to her feet and dusted herself off as if it was all in a day's work.

"I like this because I have never cared for an animal before," she said. "I plan to do it again next year."

Judges in each of the contests said the kids deserve a lot of credit for the time they put into caring for the animals. Each judge pointed out the youth are learning positive skills that can help them later in life.

Swine judge John Mendes, an animal science teacher at Modesto Junior College, said, "This is like an athletic contest. This is game day for these kids."

Mendes added the kids are learning what it is to spend time and money to care for these animals, adding they are learning to be responsible and to be leaders.

"These kids are our future," he said.

Sheep judge John Nicewonger, also an animal science teacher at Modesto Junior College, said, "It is nice to see youth be so courteous and caring. It has been a high-quality show."

Throughout the day the scene around the animal barns and arenas was one of non-stop activity. As their turn came, each youngster moved his or her animal from the barn to the arena. Parents, friends and other relatives anxiously watched the proceedings from the stands.

Market judging concluded later that afternoon and showmanship for the large animals was to begin this morning.

Saturday many said it had been a tiring day and some said no matter how they did in the judging they were proud of their effort.

"Even if you get a bad ribbon you know you did your best," Franchesca said.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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