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HARRISONBURG, Va.--Although Katie Payne, 6, has been around animals her whole life on her family's Fulks Run farm, one trick she's still mastering is the art of showing her four-legged friends in the fair arena.
"Last year it was my first," said Katie, who showed a lamb. But the precocious first-grader is eager to move on to showing market animals in the coming years.
"[The lamb] is what I show until I get bigger and older. Then I'm going to show steers and I'm going to show hogs. I just like a lot of animals," said the young mile-a-minute talker.
On Jan. 12, the Rockingham County Virginia Cooperative Extension office helped Katie get a step closer to her goal by hosting an informational "market animal boot camp," that gave attendees information about selecting and raising animals to show.
"We want them to leave with resources and contacts," said Dara Booher, a Rockingham County 4-H extension agent. "We're targeting our first year exhibitors, but even if you have been before you can learn something new."
That was the case for Katie's mother, Robin Payne.
"I showed at the fair 15 years ago," Payne said. "Now that my kids are ready to start showing, it's a totally different process. [This event] is definitely a good learning experience."
Up to 250 4-H and FFA (the organization formerly known as Future Farmers of America) members from Highland, Bath, Shenandoah, Augusta and Rockingham counties were expected to stop by the event, which was held at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds' Exhibit Hall.
In the past, the Rockingham County Virginia Cooperative Extension office has held two separate events to prepare youth for showing market animals at the county fair--one for steers and one for smaller animals.
This was the first time the events were combined into one.
The event also took a new approach, Booher said, in providing cards for children that could be "punched" by exhibitors if a child visited their booth. Children then could win prizes.
"The stamping is great," said Daniela Garrett with Purina Animal Nutrition. "It interacts the exhibitors more [with those attending the event]."
Families shuffled around to more than 30 different vendors, picking up knowledge about breeding, animal health, feed, financial management, show supplies and other topics. Live animals were also on display and youth could learn more about each species of show animal and meet the species chairmen to receive tips.
Sierra McCray, 15, of Barren Ridge, has shown animals for five years, but came to collect information for her 4-H club, of which she is the president, and "learn more about the animals."
"There's a lot that goes into (picking an animal)," McCray said.
Added her father, Shane McCray: "It's great. You meet different kids and get different ideas."