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Hundreds in FFA & 4-H enjoy fair experience
County Fair offer life lessons to youth with animal entries
Kimberly Haley, a senior in Central Valley High School FFA, with her Fair swine entry, Bonnie. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

The drone of cooling fans blowing droplets of misted water over swine, goats, sheep and cows, the smells of sawdust wafting in the air along with waffle cones, the screams from rides, and conversations with friends will be memories hundreds of FFA and 4-H members will be carrying with them from the Stanislaus County Fair.

Some also will have ribbons to remind them that diligence and hard work has a payoff.

That may have entered the mind of Hughson High FFA member Justin Stoneham who left the judging arena with his 1,056-pound steer on Wednesday evening with a second place in the lightweight steer market division. Bystanders were commenting on the cuteness of the cow, which is soon headed for slaughterhouse.

"There's no easy way to look at it," said Stoneham, who noted the hardest part is realizing he would be parting from the cow he has raised since its purchase in May 2016, destined to fill someone's freezer. "That's the hardest part for me. The thing is that's why you baby them so much. He's pampered. He's got fans. He'd got misters on him."

The Hughson High School junior keeps a hair from each cow's tail to remember his animals by and can recite the name of each one he has raised for the Fair.

Earlier that morning, Westport 4-H members Josh Ludwig, Christopher Zipser and Matthew Bailey took a break from horsing around the fairgrounds near the 4-H swine shelter to talk about their Durocs. All of them got second place in market in their respective groups. Josh got seventh place in showmanship while Christopher got fourth in showmanship in their classes.

"No big winners this year," commented a 4-H mom with them.

Matthew, 10, commented that the rides were most fun, as well as dealing with the pigs.

"You get to walk them and mess around with them and they have a fun time," said Bailey, who fed his hog "Bacon" a diet of marshmallows as treats.

All three said the work at the Fair was hard but also fun.

Christopher admitted it would be hard handing off his Duroc, named Jeff, to a buyer and might have to fight back tears.

Cameron Shapley, a Hughson High sophomore and Hughson FFAer, raised "Babe" as a meat cow since picking him up in Napa in October. It was seven months old at the time.

"I may spoil them but I do not get attached to them," said Shapley.

Cameron spent about an hour a day during school tending to the animal and three hours a day when school was not in session. Besides the experience, Cameron was hoping to make a profit at the Fair.

Shapley, who has shown animals at the Fair for eight years now, wants some career with raising animals.

"I want to learn more about breeding and ranching as far as mass production of a ranch," he said.

Kimberly Haley, a senior belonging to Central Valley High School FFA, took a break from sweeping the walkway clear of sawdust to talk about her performance showing "Bonnie," her FFA swine entry on July 18.

"They didn't pull me out or anything so it's not like I was in the top three, but that's okay," said Kimberly, who has invested the last six months and approximately $1,300 in raising the hog at the CUSD school farm.

"I like it," said Haley of her first Fair experience. "It's a lot of work."

Attachment to her animal is problematic.

"I don't think I'm going to do it next year, actually. It's hard."

Central Valley FFA won first place in the Horticulture Sweepstakes for having the most and highest quality of plant and vegetable entries.

Arianna Gutierrez earned Supreme Grand Champion with her single fryer meat rabbit and placed fourth in rabbit showmanship.

Brenda Diaz produced the Reserve Supreme Champion Poultry Meat pen.

In the Meat Goat Show Lilliana Mendoza placed first with her meat goat.

Central Valley FFA also took second place in the FFA Clean Barn Award for their Rabbit display, and Central Valley FFA Ag Mechanics earned $200 at the Ag Mech Auction for their fabrication of an all-metal rabbit cage.