While many American families are preparing for Fourth of July activities, others will be on the road, traveling to the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA, for the Junior National Hereford Expo (JNHE). The show will be held July 5 – 12.
Amy Cowan, director of youth activities, says the show will bring 1,240 cattle, 1,530 entries and 610 exhibitors from 34 states.
“This is the furthest east the show has ever been,” said Cowan. “We’re excited to have it in Pennsylvania.”
One of the most unique aspects of the junior event is a larger-than-life mural, painted by Rex Whiteman, that’s specially designed for each show. The mural incorporates aspects of the host state with the theme. Cowan says when the host states approached the Junior Hereford Association about holding the show in the east, they offered the theme, ‘A Sweet Family Tradition’. “It’s a family tradition, and it’s sweet,” she said.
The New York decorations committee provided a sketch of what they envisioned for the mural, which depicts the rolling hills and farm fields of Pennsylvania. The landscape accompanying the mural will include a horse-drawn plow and an Amish buggy.
“There’s an old stone house painted on the mural, and a quilt will hang on clothesline from the house,” said Cowan. “It adds dimension to the mural.” Cowan says the organization sold blocks on the quilt as a fundraiser, and that the quilt will be sold in a live auction with proceeds going to support the 2014 Junior National Hereford Show.
Whiteman has already completed the mural in sections, and will bring it to Harrisburg for the final assembly. “He paints the mural on sections of insulation,” said Cowan. “He puts up a big wooden frame and nails the sections to that frame before the show. As it goes up, the picture is created. It’s a neat backdrop for the whole event. All of the classes are in front of it, so we get some great photos.”
Once they arrive at the show, youth will be busy preparing cattle for show, but will also have time to participate in a variety of activities. Youth can select from more than 20 contests, including Certified Hereford Beef® grill-off, quiz bowl, showmanship, team fitting, extemporaneous speech, illustrated speech and marketing. “We added a new contest this year,” said Cowan. “We’ve always had team marketing, which is groups of three who try to sell an animal to a panel of judges. This year, we’ve added individual marketing and have had interest in that. In the individual marketing contest, the contestant can sell semen, embryos, a trailer — anything that’s ag-related.”
Cowan says Hereford showmanship is unique, with close to 550 of the 610 exhibitors vying for top showman. “It’ll be a full day on Wednesday,” said Cowan, adding that the showmanship contest is sponsored by Sullivan Supply and Stock Show University. “It’s a neat contest because so many compete. Team fitting is the day before, and we typically get 18 to 20 teams competing in that.”
Team fitting is divided into five age groups — peewee, junior, intermediate, senior and ‘pre-peewee’, a new category. “That’s for the little ones who aren’t members yet,” said Cowan. “This gives youngsters between the age of five and seven who have traveled with their families an opportunity to participate. They can go out in the ring with an animal as long as they have an intermediate exhibitor with them. Last year was the first year for that and it was successful.”
“What makes the Junior Hereford National event so unique and so well-attended is that it’s so much more than a cattle show,” said Cowan, noting that participants in the show are members of their state Hereford organization as well as the National Hereford Junior Association. “It’s a family event, and there is something for everyone.” Extra activities include a trip to historic Gettysburg and a golf tournament at the Hershey Country Club to support the Hereford Youth Foundation of America.
Doug Howe, Pennsylvania Hereford breeder since 1999 and supporter of youth activities, says it took some convincing to bring the National Junior Show to the east, but added that entries are comparable to those in past years.
Howe worked behind the scenes to make sure there would be an ample number of volunteers to guide participants through the show and activities. He says that many who are involved with showing Herefords are familiar with the Farm Show Complex. “Most of our juniors go there three times every year,” he said. “There’s the Southeast PA Beef Classic, the Pennsylvania Cattleman’s Jackpot Heifer and Steer Show, and the Keystone International Livestock Expo, and Pennsylvania kids can compete in the Pennsylvania Farm Show in January.”
One of the most valuable experiences that youth have at the show is the opportunity to make lifelong friendships. To that end, stalling assignments are arranged to help youth meet exhibitors from other states. “We took states that are far away and put them next to states that are closer,” said Howe. “Nebraska is with Maryland, Texas is with Connecticut and Virginia, and South Dakota is head-to-head with Massachusetts. Those kids aren’t likely to see one another in the show circuit.”
As for the final preparations that are taking place prior to the show, Howe says that everything is falling into place. “We’re just going to have a good time,” he said.