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Local kids enjoy animals at fair
Joey Cuevas (above) was the only Central Valley High School FFA student with a beef cattle entry at this years County Fair. Below is CVHS FFA member Emileigh Earn with her goat. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

The Stanislaus County is now over but a small army of local 4-H and FFA children enjoyed the experience of showing their animal projects for the annual summer venue.

Ceres and Central Valley high school FFA members donned their blue corduroy FFA jackets, held onto their freshly scrubbed and prepared animal, and tapped hours of showmanship practice to walk into the show ring with confidence at the recent Stanislaus County Fair.

During the 10-day affair, which ended Sunday, Ceres and Hughson students participated in a wide range of projects including dairy and beef cattle, sheep, meat goats, pigs, rabbits, poultry, ag mechanics, vegetable and plant projects. By the last day of fair, each student had unique and lasting memories of the process of raising, preparing, and showing a market or breeding animal.

Valeria Mendoza, a member of Hughson FFA, brought her goat Izzy to the Turlock fairgrounds. It was her second fair experience but her first year of showing in the ring.

"I like the adrenaline," said Mendoza, who admitting that showmanship is a nerve-wracking exercise.

Izzy won a market ready ribbon.

Emileigh Earn, a Central Valley High School FFA member, said she enjoyed caring for her goat at the fair.

"It lets you get out of the house and gives you something to do," said Earn, who shows her animal on Wednesday evening. She worked eight-hour shifts to keep the pens clean and water the animals. Earn wants to become an ag teacher and said she views ag teacher Christie Liebig as a mentor.

Central Valley FFA swine entries captured three second-places, a third, fifth, sixth two seventh places and a ninth place in class.

Joey Cuevas, the only CVHS FFA student with a beef cattle entry, said he started out showing swine four years ago and moved on to steers. He found showmanship competition was tough, especially among the 4-H students who have been seasoned at showing their animals.

"It's pretty intense because a lot of these kids have been showing since 4-H days and when you come in just as an FFA kid, only been doing it for two years, ah, you really have to work at it if you want to get as advanced as the 4-H kids," said Cuevas. "It's definitely a lot of fun because I learn something new every day."

Cuevas graduated from CVHS in June and plans to attend Humboldt State University to major in zoology and possibly transfer to Chico State. He wants to become an agricultural teacher or "maybe start by own little beef operation one day."

He recommends the Fair to any high school student.

"I think the Fair is definitely something that students should get involved in because it's a lot of fun and it's something to do in the middle of summer instead of just being home or hanging out somewhere else," said Cuevas.
"It really shows how committed you are to your project because you get to come and show it off at the County Fair."

Matthew Bailey, a member of Ceres 4-H, entered swine at the fair. He won fourth place overall in intermediate showmanship. Bailey also got second in his class.

Bailey did better at the California State Fair where he made the top 10 in the Champion Challenge. There he won reserve junior champion. He made the first round of interviews and undertakes his final interview today.

Gillian Taylor, a 14-year-old Mae Hensley Junior High School student who is in her third year of Ceres 4-H, both won 8th place in swine intermediate showmanship and third place in market. She said the experience with animals has fostered her desire to become a zoologist.

Alicia Castaneda won eighth place in her swine class.
Lexi Clements won fourth place in her class.

Alex Potts won eighth place in her class for her swine.

There was tough competition among 4-H swine entries.

"We didn't do too bad but there's tough competition," said Ceres 4-H swine leader Anna Bailey. "There's a lot of competition. I'm just glad that all the kids made the top 10 basically. They improved a lot; they're all doing good. All the pigs did good this year. This is the best year in showmanship."

Ceres 4-H did not bring any swine breeding stock this year, largely because of the swine disease, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea. Matthew Bailey said the disease has killed over a half-million piglets already which is bringing up swine meat prices up.

Ceres 4-H produced champion poultry and rabbits.