By Kayce Kobs, Nebraska Pork Producers Association Mentor
One might find the title of this paper a bit interesting for lack of a better word. Truthfully, to include all of those involved in my shadow would mean taking up quite a bit of space in the title. My shadow turned out a bit differently than I expected it to. I decided I wanted to shadow Steve Landon because I knew he was an extension assistant for Washington County, Nebraska and I know he helped out during the hog show every year, but he disappears at times and I wanted to know what he does behind the scenes.
I’ve proudly shown hogs for 7 years, but I’ve never really known all the things that go into preparation for a show and that’s why I decided to shadow Steve. I decided the Fremont Fair in Fremont, Nebraska would be a better place to do this because 9 counties are able to show there so I thought there might be more to it as far as getting sponsors and equipment goes. Little did I know that my shadow with Steve would turn into a shadow with Karna Dam (Sounder’s County Extension Educator), the Judge from that night who originated in Texas, the Cumming County Extension Educator, a Hog Club leader from Cumming County, and the Washington County 4-H intern. Getting all of these different perspectives on the show was enlightening. I didn’t get as much inside hands on experience as I would like because planning for the show begins way before the show commences, but I did get some valuable information.
Most of the information I learned came before I got to work handling the panels in the show ring, although I was glad to help out with that. The most intriguing thing I learned probably came from Karna. She told me that at Saunders County they have a system where they have all night watches of their hog barns. This concept was completely foreign to me as my fairs have never had a watchman system before.
In addition, it was reiterated to me that check in processes can differ between shows. In Fremont, check in and weigh in happen simultaneously and the hogs only stay a day before they are shown. In Washington County, they are brought in and are weighed in a 3 hour period in the morning and most of the exhibitors themselves help out. Most of the preparation for the show, Steve informed me, includes locating sponsors for premiums and trophies. The rest comes from volunteers helping tear down the arena, keeping records, and working panels.
After the show and my panel job was finished, I had the opportunity to speak to two more individuals that gave me more insight before it was time to help dismantle things. The judge informed me that growing up in Texas, he learned that he can’t use his pet peeves alone to judge an animal, but rather the animal as a whole. Some judges have different preferences and he reiterated to me that the entire show is indeed based on one judge’s perspective on one given day. When I asked him what he has to do to prepare for a show, he informed me that the preparation is a lifelong process. Getting to know how a hog is supposed to look and operate provides a base for judging, of course those pet peeves can sometimes over rule, but getting experience in general helps the judge make the fairest call that he can.
I also talked to the leader of the Cumming County Hog Club during this time. I asked him what his club does to prepare for a show and he informed me that walking the hogs was important. This I already knew, but he put an interesting spin on it. He walks his hogs one at a time so they don’t walk near each other. It was at this point that it suddenly occurred to me; I had discovered why our hogs will manage to find each other in the show ring and practically run us over to walk next to each other, because they were used to being together. Other than exercise for their hogs and practicing up on their questions, which were much the same as the ones my cousins and I practiced (what breed is your hog? What are his rations made of? What is the rate of gain? How old is your hog? What is your hog’s name?…) their method of preparation is much the same as the judge’s.
The Washington County 4-H Intern, Patricia Bohaboji, told me that her job mostly consists of helping get sponsors and traveling to different shows to help out. The most valuable thing that I already knew, but was reinforced through this experience, was the show wouldn’t occur without the generosity and dedication of volunteers and I’m glad I could be on the Hog Committee at the Washington County fair this year to help out with weigh in and during the show. I was an exhibitor for so long that I’m glad I have a chance to give something back and this opportunity to talk to so many different facets of the show has reinforced the importance of my involvement so that I can give back to the industry and the kids.
My expectations themselves weren’t met during the experience because I didn’t actually get to follow Steve anywhere. His job during the show was to work the exit gate and help keep track of placing so he didn’t leave the show ring. Despite how different my experience ended up being, it was still an enjoyable experience because I always have fun at a show and I learned a few new things along the way.