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Fulton youths: Showing animals can be fairly complicated

August 21, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. -- Matt Fletcher has been showing animals at the Fulton County Fair for a few years now.

Rabbits, sheep, steer, all have earned him ribbon after ribbon and quite a few monetary prizes.

Yet it is not his way with the judges or poise in the ring that land him in first, second or third.

No, if you ask the 12-year-old from McConnellsburg he wins because he has fun.  

Simple as that? Not quite.    

Each year, hundreds of children and youth from across Pennsylvania bring their beloved animals to a county fair in hopes of taking home a prize and a premium check.

Competing at a fair can be complicated, Matt said.

His friend, 11-year-old Michaela Rosenberry of McConnellsburg, agreed.

"Tell me about it," she said. "My first year I had no idea what I was doing."

Everything from a competitor's shirt can earn or lose him or her points, Michaela said. 

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In Fulton County, each student is required to wear a button-down shirt tucked into pants that are clean and intact.

Round it off with a pair of boots and you have what Matt calls "the uniform."

Not everyone is aware of "the uniform" their first time and that is why they might not place, Michaela said. 

"I know I lost my first year because I was wearing overalls," she said.  

Knowing the rules, including which side of the animal to stand on and how much eye contact to maintain with the judge, is just part of what it takes to leave the fair a winner, Matt said.

"You need a good lamb or pig or rabbit or steer or whatever," he said. "Not one that is sick or small."

While the competitor's showmanship affects how he or she places, if your animal is not well bred, you probably won't come in first, he said.

Even following all the rules with a well-bred animal does not guarantee a ribbon.

Take, for instance, Matt's dwarf hoto rabbit named Thumper.

Last year, Thumper brought home multiple ribbons.  This year, he earned only one.

Nothing changed, Matt said, adding, "Some years you do better than others."

That is because the key to winning is attitude, said Michaela.

"I tell my friends who are just starting out to have fun and not be nervous," she said. "Though I really hate showing."

Showing animals at a fair is not for everyone and is often restricted to those in a 4-H club.

Still, it is worth trying, Matt said.

"It is just fun," he said. "And if you need money, it's a good way to get it."

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