NORTH CANTON, Ohio – This Superman wasn’t able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound, but he quickly took 15-year-old Laura Kline to new heights.
Kline, the daughter of Larry and Diane Kline of North Canton, won grand champion steer honors at this year’s Ohio State Fair with her 1,325-pound crossbred steer, “Superman.” She’s been flying high ever since the Aug. 4 show.
“I think it’s finally sinking in,” said Kline, who stayed at the state fairgrounds with her steer until Sunday, Aug. 19.
“I really don’t remember anything right after the show,” she added. “It was all a big blur. Everyone was taking pictures and talking to me. I was dazed.”
Her steer captured the coveted award from a field of 217 head.
The day before the steer show, Kline won the supreme showmanship trophy in the market steer competition, beating showmanship winners from 10 age divisions for the top honor. It was, she hoped, a good omen for the next day, because in at least the last two years, the winners of the supreme showmanship trophy have gone on to capture grand champion steer honors.
New record bid. Kline’s steer set a new Ohio State Fair record with a bid of $75,000 from Kroger during the sale of champions Aug. 15. Of that, Kline will receive $20,000 and the rest will go into the fair’s Youth Reserve Program, which distributes 20 scholarships each year to youth who have participated in livestock and non-animal state fair junior fair programs.
The state fair started placing caps on the amount exhibitors could earn for their market livestock sales in 1995.
Kline plans to save half of her earnings for future college expenses and half will go toward the purchase of next year’s steers and other animals. The last two years, Kline has bought her calves, including Superman, at Shane and Goshe Show Cattle in Fostoria, Ohio.
Family affair. Kline has been showing at the state fair since 1997, starting with market lambs. This was her third year showing steers at the state fair. She is joined on the show ring trail by her sister, Louise, 13, who took two lambs to the state fair this year, and brother, L.V., 12, who showed a steer that stood third in its class behind the steers that went on to claim division honors.
The trio will be busy showing at the Stark County Fair this week, competing with lambs, hogs and steers, plus a market goat that L.V. will be showing. They are members of the Louisville Livestock Leaders 4-H Club, advised by Dan and Nancy Biller.
Kline decided to try showing at the state fair after winning grand champion market lamb honors at the county level in 1996. “It’s kind of the ultimate show,” she explains.
Commitment. All three Kline siblings consider their market livestock a full-time commitment. Other than L.V.’s wrestling season, they don’t play sports, they don’t hang out at the mall and they don’t talk on the telephone like other typical teens. They raise and feed and groom and show livestock.
“You have to dedicate yourself 100 percent,” Kline said.
“This is our life,” admits her mother, Diane.
Steers for the Stark County Fair are selected by late October or early November; steers for the state fair must be noseprinted by Jan. 15. Then the Kline family starts its show season in the winter, hitting the preview or jackpot steer and hog shows around the state.
Ironically, Superman hated his first outing at a preview show. “I thought ‘I’m never going to be able to show him,'” Kline said. “After that, we bonded.”
Hard work. Laura said a typical summer day begins at about 5:30 a.m. when she puts the steers in the barn from the dirt lot where they spend the night (she’ll put them in earlier if the temperature gets above 60 degrees at night). She rinses each show steer for an hour and then brushes them for another hour, then moves on to other chores or working with her other animals.
During the school year, Diane Kline will do the morning chores, but after school Laura is out in the barn, rinsing each steer and working them with a show stick, then rinsing them again.
Laura admits the steers are “pampered.” The Klines have two climate-controlled rooms in the barns to house the show steers, one fashioned out of an old cooler from a Dairy Mart. A washroom is built in one of the air rooms. Last year, they busted out all the cement on the barn floors and now bed the animals with mulch so the steers don’t get stiff.
The steers get weighed once a week; the lambs and pigs get weighed every other day.
Talk of the fairgrounds. Getting to the state fairgrounds in the wee hours of Aug. 2, the Klines could sense the interest in Superman starting to mount, as a steady stream of people came by their barn, watched at the washrack and filled the bleachers during Laura’s showmanship classes.
“It was nerve-racking,” the Hoover High School sophomore admits. “I couldn’t sleep at night because of all the stress and I felt like I was hyperventilating when I went in the ring.”
But the hoopla before the show was nothing compared to the excitement after the judge slapped her steer as the grand champion – the emotions, the congratulations, the pictures, the interviews. The state fair even provides a media coach for the champion exhibitors so they’ll know how to handle the pressure.
Superman was on display until Sunday, Aug. 19, in a special tent that was also the birthing center, which led to some interesting questions, like, “When is she expecting?”
“It was an unreal experience,” said Diane Kline. “You wish every kid could go through this. It was wonderful.”
Through it all, Superman played the part, lying near the fence so fair visitors could easily pet him.
Looking ahead. Kline realizes she may not ever repeat her experience, but she’s looking forward to more competition at the county and state level. “As long as I go down there next year and be competitive, I’ll be happy.”
“I think if I couldn’t have my steers, I wouldn’t know what I’d do.”