The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, July 22, 2018

The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, July 22, 2018

Picking up where we left off last week, we tracked down local fair-goers photographed as kids through the years by The News-Gazette and asked them to tell us about the most memorable animal they ever showed.

Shown here: With Mr. Cuddle Bug the cat at 2002 Vermilion County Fair

"Though I never showed him at the Vermilion County Fair, my family's llama amused all friends and family.

"Alejandro was especially ornery. He grazed on the trees in our front yard and often refused to budge when we attempted to lead him back into the barn. For that reason, he spent a lot of his time tethered to trees near our driveway.

"The churchgoers across the street seemed to get a rather big kick out of it."

Shown here: At left, talking to a judge before the sheep portion of 2006 Georgetown Fair

"I showed just about every animal at least once. My parents supported all the sheep, goats, hogs, dogs and calves. One of my favorite characters was a Charolais steer named Peaches.

"Peaches acted very similarly to a giant dog. He loved to have his chin scratched and would tilt his head up so you had easy access.

"That summer, I frequently would walk out of the show ring with a wet shirt. Peaches loved licking my arm while we stood in the show ring. It didn't bother me, unless I was wearing short sleeves since calves have tongues like sandpaper. Most people found it funny, and it always caused someone to smile so it was worth a soggy sleeve."

Shown here: At 2003 Champaign County Fair

"Raising and showing Angus cattle has always been a defining part of my life. It's not just about friendships made and the memories I reminiscent about more frequently these days, but it was the determination, grit and hard work that have made me who I am today.

"It was Valentine's Day during my senior year. While most girls were getting ready for a special date, I was headed to the U of I with a first-time cow who was struggling to give birth to her calf.

"The vet put chains on my little calf's hooves and let me try pulling before deciding that a C-section was the only option to save them both. I sat about 15 feet away as they cut open my heifer, pulled out this little bull calf and handed me a towel to dry him off. I fell in love and bonded with Lucky from that moment on, as I took on the role as his mother — bottle feeding and raising him to market weight.

"And I wouldn't have the passion and drive for the industry without the influences of my late cousin, Steve. Not only did he selflessly sacrifice his time, money and energy into my show cattle year after year, but he taught and modeled for me everything I needed to know — from breaking cattle to lead and castrating bull calves to feeding and prepping cattle for show.

"He would let me ride along to the sale barn and we always made a trip together to the cattle shows at the Illinois State Fair. He was one of the biggest reasons I became an ag teacher.

"While my role in the show ring is much different these days — I am the beef superintendent for the Fisher Fair — my role ringside has also changed. My husband and I have two girls who are passionate about the swine industry. We are year three into showing hogs with no end in sight."

Shown here: With Suzie at 2004 Georgetown Fair

"I've been fortunate to have horses since I was 18 months old. While I have had several special horses in my life since my first pony, Suzie — that's her in the picture — the horse I have currently is probably the most special of them all.

"His barn name is Crosby. I got him in July 2012. We had a rough start but with the help of a professional trainer, we started to come together as a team. Crosby is truly my once-in-a-lifetime horse. We have shown in 4-H, open shows, American Quarter Horse Association shows at the state and national level, and we have recently started showing in American Ranch Horse Association shows. He will do just about anything I ask.

"Crosby is kind of like a little brother who is always picking on you and then takes off laughing. Crosby is curious and wants to be around people. He loves treats and if you tickle his upper lip he will stick it up in the air and 'laugh.' There is never a dull moment with this horse."

Shown here: In the middle, after winning the senior showmanship award at 2011 Macon County Fair

"When working with livestock every day, you become pretty attached to the animal and are quick to learn their personality. These personalities can vary, but none will ever compare to my steer PoPo."How did he get the name, you ask? On our way home from getting him, 10 state troopers passed our truck and trailer while we were deciding on a name.

"From the start, PoPo and I had a bond that could not be broken. At shows, if I was not around he wouldn't settle down until I got back. If anyone else tried to show him or even lead him, he would not cooperate. When we would go on our morning walk, if he decided to be stubborn I would have to get a leaf and make him follow. I eventually called the leaves 'treats' — he was basically a 1,300-pound dog.

"PoPo taught me compassion, trust, hard work and the value of working together as a team to achieve success."

Shown here: Cooling down a hog at 2002 Champaign County Fair

"It was either the summer of either 2007 or 2008. We had three chester barrows and two of them were to big for the state fair.

"So we took the third-best one — he really wasn't all that good but we took him anyway. It was just me and my dad — we spent three days there together. It was probably the most relaxing and unstressful time that we had at the state fair since I started showing."

Shown here: Competing in the junior barrels division at 2011 Champaign County Fair

"I didn't grow up around farm animals or horses, like most of the other kids at the county fair. I was born and raised in Champaign. My parents were always very supportive of my love for horses and made it possible for me to ride.

"At 13, I found what any little girl dreams of — a horse to share my life with. Her name was Serita — or Rita for short. She belonged to my trainer's dad at the time but would later become mine. Rita and I showed together for seven years after that weekend before she passed away in the fall of 2017.

"Rita was the best partner anyone could ask for. She taught me how to be patient with change over the years, how to listen and learn. She was your typical mare at home — always had an attitude and was a little sassy — but she was also very kind and forgiving when I made a mistake. There is no better feeling in the world than being able to do what you love with such an amazing partner."

Shown here: Leading a calf during the cow show at 2004 Champaign County Fair

"My favorite cow I showed was a small, stubborn Hereford steer. He was the perfect starter cow as I was never afraid he was going to run off and get away because he never wanted to move.

"Showing cattle during the summer as a child is what made me the person I am today. It taught me the meaning of responsibility, hard work and dedication.

"Crunch time is one of the experiences I'll never forget. I put on my show clothes, knowing in a couple minutes it would be just me and the cow in the ring to do our thing.

"Getting up at 4 a.m. to get to the fair to wash and feed my cow didn't excite me at the time, but as I look back, I'd do it all over again."

Shown here: At 2002 Champaign County Fair

"One of my many favorite memories was the year Dad decided to shear the sheep himself. Typically, we would have someone come and shear the sheep, someone who had done this many times before.

"But not this year, and I am still not quite sure why. I'm pretty sure that by the end of the day, Dad was questioning why as well.

"Us young girls were in tears because there were some accidental nicks, some runs of uneven wool down their back and sides, and they just never seem to be as 'bellied out' as you think after you shear them.

"Despite how they looked, they still did pretty good in the ring that year."

Shown here: With his favorite goat at a national competition

"In 2008, I got my first dairy goats and have came a long way since. I have started showing nationally while also becoming a licensed judge in 2016."Over these last 10 years, there has been one doe who has taken my heart — SGCH MagMar's GSC Charlize 5*M came into my life in 2014. She has since become a superior genetic finished champion, going best in show five times, grand champion and best udder at the 2016 North American International Livestock Exposition, and reproducing herself.

"I currently have two daughters, five granddaughters and two great-granddaughters. She's a one-of-a-kind doe."

Shown here: At 2015 Champaign County Fair

"My all-time favorite rabbit was my Flemish giant named Alex.

"These can grow up to be close to two feet long and about 35 pounds. I showed for seven years — once at the state fair, one year at the Champaign County Fair. I won best of show, best of heavy breed, best of show pen of three, best of show single fryer and another best of show pen of three. Plus, multiple first-place ribbons along with all these."

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