This weekend we took part in our 4th Annual Columbia Basin Fitting and Showing Challenge. Each year we set out on a mission to teach kids how to properly fit and show their 4H or FFA dairy projects. It’s a day and a half event packed with washing, clipping, showing, learning, meeting new people and for many kids stepping out of their comfort zones and pushing themselves to be better than they were the year before! Each year that we have put this on has been so different, but this year has been my favorite by far!
We made our way back down to Grandview, WA at the Yakima Valley Fairgrounds – one of the cutest little fairgrounds around! We arrived to the grounds to find a tiny little wash rack full of empty flower pots waiting to be filled with flowers for the upcoming fair, the dairy barn sat empty, missing the sounds of animals bellering and the laughter of children. Two hours later we had a wash rack full of heifers of all different colors and sizes and the barn was quickly filling up with kids setting up their tack and making their pack. Some kids had an idea of what they needed to do and then there were others who had no idea what was going on but, they were gung ho to get to it! Nothing makes my heart happy like watching kids jump right in!
We saw some old faces at this years event and we saw A LOT of new faces! I loved seeing the progress the returning kids made over the last year. There’s a lot to be said for practice and for me it was quite obvious some of these kids really did put the effort in over the last several months because they came with far more confidence than they had in the past couple of years, they picked better heifers for projects, they handled their animals with more ease and their clipping and fitting skills had improved!
However, it was the group of newbies that really made these past two days special! About fifteen young kids, who did not grow up on a dairy. Most hadn’t even touched a dairy animal until the start of their dairy 4h club. But, here we had fifteen kids who wanted to learn. They weren’t afraid. These kids wanted to be there, it wasn’t that their parents were pushing it onto them. How cool is that? For me it was really encouraging to see that yes there are kids and adults out there who are interested in dairy. I spoke with one mom who told me “dairy has always been my favorite animal.” It kind of made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside because so often we hear negative comments, we watch as the dairy department in the grocery store fills up with nut beverages and we’re always looking for ways to share our story to defend ourselves from the ignorance of those who are out to shed darkness on an industry that can only really truly run in your blood. We had kids, who I’m almost certain didn’t know that 5 o’clock AM even existed, yet they were up and at it, getting their animals washed and ready for show day! Little troopers! I met a young girl who bribed her calf with hay and grain to get her to follow her because she wouldn’t be broke by her much too large halter. We gave her a proper fitting halter and that calf trotted beside her. The excitement in this young girl when she finally had a calf that would lead was a major highlight! Then there were the moments when the kids with more experience stepped up and helped the newbies. Sharing equipment, talking them thru how to set a topline, working together and making new friends. This is what 4H is all about!
Without our volunteers and sponsors there’s no way we could put this on for these kids, at no charge at all! We are so thankful for our volunteers: Melissa Rusch, Zach Heeran, Brooke Moe, Chris Baginski, Liz Holtcamp, Carol Young, Mia and Natalie Berry, Randy Van Wieringen and Dave Aandriga (if I’m missing anyone I am SO SO SO sorry but SO SO SO thankful for all you’ve done! Thank you to our judge, Allen Berry for taking the time to judge and to work with these kids!
Thank you to our sponsors: All-West Select Sires for the pizza dinner and t-shirts, Semex for sponsoring our Judge, Wolco for sponsoring our lunch on Saturday, Western Stockman’s for supplying us with sawdust, J&K Dairy for supplying us with straw and cleaning out, Sagehill Veterinary Services for sponsoring our Champion Belt Buckle, Yakima Valley Fairgrounds for allowing us to use the facilities at no charge, CRV for sponsoring prizes, EPL for sponsoring grain, beet pulp and prizes, WA Dairy Farmers for sponsoring take-away items for each participant, Darigold for sponsoring chocolate milk, and Columbia & Inland Holstein Club for sponsoring ice cream and prizes. So many of the kids and their parents were so appreciative of these two days and I know that for some of these kids the generosity and kindness shown to them by our volunteers and our sponsors will go so much further than we ever can possibly know. Our fourth annual fitting and showing challenge was such a blessing to be a part of!
Thank you also to the parents and 4H leaders for supporting your kids and encouraging them to attend our event. We encourage each and everyone of you to keep working at what you’ve learned and have fun with it! Practice makes perfect!