HARRISBURG, PA — More than 600 junior exhibitors from 34 states across the country spent a week here for the VitaFerm Junior National Hereford Expo (JNHE).
“I honestly think it’s the best junior national I’ve been too,” said Andy Billing of Greendale, NJ, co-chair New Jersey. representative on the six-state joint host JNHE planning committee. “The Farm Show Complex was a great facility to host the event. It’s the first time for all the cattle to be in one barn. The complex is air conditioned and there was plenty of trailer parking.”
Billing believed that six states combining creative resources worked great so that the event was not a big burden for one state. “We are all volunteer with a passion and interest in the Hereford breed,” Billing said. “There were 130 first-time exhibitors at this year’s national show. Most of those kids were from the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast states. They will leave with a greater interest in cattle, especially the Hereford breed.”
It was the 7th JNHE for Billing to take his children and their cattle to exhibit at the national expo. “Usually the show is out west, so it was nice to have it here in Harrisburg,” he added. “It’s the farthest East for the event ever to be held. I’m hoping many of the first-time exhibitors will go to next year’s junior national in Grand Island, Nebraska.”
P.J. Clair of Fryeburg, Maine, was enjoying his third JNHE. “It’s been a great week,” the nine-year-old said. “I have two Hereford heifers.”
At the past two JNHEs, P.J. said the family had to drive his show cattle 20-plus hours so it was nice to have a closer show and only have 10 hours to drive. “I like to compete,” he said. “I like to make new friends and I really enjoy seeing new parts of the country.”
This was P.J.’s first visit to historic Pennsylvania. He was hoping for a trip to Hershey Park, but got too busy at the cattle show. “I’ve raised Herefords ever since I was born,” he explained. “My relatives have a cow/calf operation and have always helped provide opportunities for me. I’ve learned most of my Hereford and cattle knowledge from my cousin, Raymond.
“Raymond has taught me how to clip, how to feed and how to make them grow,” P.J. said. “And he’s taught me how to show and improve my skills in the show ring during showmanship.”
This was Libby Kelkenberg’s first junior national. The 17-year-old brought her Herefords down from her home in Clarence Center, NY. “I’ve been showing cattle for 12 years,” she said. “I thought it would be a great experience to exhibit at this year’s national junior Hereford show since it was on the East coast for the very first time. I enjoyed it very much.
“I will continue to show Herefords and hope to make it to more junior national Hereford shows,” Libby added. “You can show as a junior exhibitor until you are 21 years old. We all share the same connection and interest in Hereford cattle. That’s what makes this show special.”
The Western New Yorker said the best part was meeting so many people from around the country and even more Hereford breeders from New York. She was in the fitting contest, three-on-three basketball and the judging contest.
Craig Huffines, Executive Vice President of the American Hereford Association, believed that by bringing the Junior National Hereford Expo to the East Coast, it provided an invaluable experience for the 130 first-time exhibitors, like Libby.
“When you consider the number of kids attending the event for the first time, we are happy to provide this opportunity,” he said. “It exposed so many more kids to the Hereford breed. You also have a market impact because families were looking for steers and heifers to participate in this event. We were able to recruit a whole new population of kids to be advocates for the Hereford breed.
“Most importantly is the family exposure at a great event, and the social networking between kids from all over the country,” he added. “Rarely is there an opportunity like this. This is an educational event, not only are we learning about animal welfare and care, we are learning how to compete and we are providing an opportunity to develop skills that will benefit them greatly as young professionals.”
Since so many new exhibitors experienced the Junior National show for the very first time, Huffines feels kids will stick with the Hereford breed. “I believe youth should stay with the Hereford breed for two reasons,” he explained. “First, we have a wonderful base of Hereford people in our business willing to help families get started. Secondly, the quality, the disposition and the marketability of our product is second to none.”
Libby is not the only junior exhibitor with aspirations of attending next year’s event. Most kids are planning now to make the 1,300-mile trip to Nebraska to have more memorable experiences to last a lifetime.
Some of the contest results including winners from the east are Sam Birdsall of New York, 4th in Peewee Individual Sales and Skye Budney of Connecticut, first in intermediate extemporary speaking. The team hailing from New England was third in the Certified Hereford Beef Grill-Off. Team members were Elliott Budney, Sammy Barrett, Tyler Dexter and Will Houser.
For complete cattle and show ring results visit www.Hereford.org and look under “favorites,” then click on National Show Results.