DANVILLE, Ohio — “We were kind of born into it.”That’s how Jamie Banbury, 26, describes her family’s legacy of showing sheep, which now spans three generations and includes a winning streak almost anyone would envy.
The Banbury sisters — Jamie (Beatty) and her twin sisters, Madison and Taylor, have won grand or reserve champion at the Ohio State Fair 11 times in a row.
Their success in the show ring is an extension of their parents’ and grandparents’ knowledge, who all showed sheep and set records. Their grandfather, Howard Banbury, showed at the Ohio State Fair the first year Brown Sheep Arena was open.
And their parents, Mark and Barb Banbury, actually met each other at the state fair. Barb was from Pennsylvania, and Mark was from Ohio, and both grew up showing sheep.
Although they have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to sheep, the Banburys are also committed to sharing what they know with other exhibitors. Each summer, they hold a three-day grooming and showing camp at Camp Mohaven in Danville.
Known as “Banbury’s Building the Best Lamb Camp,” it draws about 150 parents and kids who come from across Ohio and other states, to learn the latest skills in showing sheep.
All three Banbury sisters serve as camp counselors, and they share what they know, even with potential competitors. Their goal is to “cover every single aspect of showing livestock” — start to finish.
“We’re an open book and we feel we can be that way because if you’re going to beat us, you’re going to have to outwork us,” Jamie Banbury said. “It doesn’t matter if we share what we do — we want to help people.”
There have been times when helping other exhibitors has meant placing second to them later on, but it’s part of the process.“We’ve been beaten by people we help, but it’s kind of cool, in the same token, because they appreciate what we’ve done,” Jamie said.
The camp usually includes other educational speakers, as well, including Barb Banbury, a professional groomer and anyone else that can be arranged.
Jamie Banbury had both the Ohio State Fair grand and reserve champion lamb in 2004, and finished showing in 2006. Madison and Taylor have about three years left.
The summers are a busy place at the 100-acre Banbury farm, located on the southern end of Danville. Jamie lives and works in Indiana, Pa., but is able to return to help prior to the state fair show, which was held July 23-24.
Madison and Taylor both play basketball for Danville High School, and as seniors, their lives are about as busy as they’ve ever been. But sheep remain a priority.
They start each day by checking the waterers and feeders, going to basketball practice and coming back to re-check everything, exercising the lambs, making sure the fans are running, and in the evening, they walk and set the lambs several times, and get them used to being in a head bracket, so they’re prepared to stand still during the show.
When the girls are gone, Barb Banbury is usually still around, keeping an eye on the sheep and any issues.
Taylor Banbury said showing good lambs takes commitment, and responsibility.
“When we were younger, it was a lot easier. Now it’s kind of a self-motivation thing,” she said, adding they sometimes have to sacrifice social events to work with the lambs.If you’re thinking about taking a lamb for a project, Taylor says go for it, and be prepared to learn.
“I think it really is a good teacher of responsibility,” she said. “It’s definitely worth it.”
Madison says she can look back now, and see why they worked so hard and sacrificed so much.“I think I’ve become a lot more appreciative as the years have gone on because I’ve seen how much work we’ve put in as a family,” she said.
With all the wins, the Banburys are the family to beat. They no longer show at their local county fair — the Knox County Fair — because the county and state fairs happen at the same time.
And the sisters half-jokingly admit, they’re not missed.But their success is nothing magical; it’s the result of hard work, year after year.
“The biggest thing is we work hard,” Jamie said. “We’re the last ones that go to bed at state fair, and we’re there first thing in the morning to get them all ready.”
She said there are inevitably some doubters, but the sisters “enjoy those, because they give us a challenge.”
This year will be a little special for the whole family, as they show for the first time without Mark, who died unexpectedly in January. Mark Banbury was a livestock broker and at one time kept several thousand head of commercial sheep.
To remember him, Barb and her daughters are sponsoring the Mark Banbury Memorial Showdown — a showmanship class that will award a $200 savings bond to an overall junior, and overall senior class winner. The winners will also receive a special banner in Mark’s memory, which features an image of him looking over the gate, at the sheep show.
“Mark Banbury was a friend of the entire sheep industry and he prided himself in working with the young people and helping others,” said Gregg Fogle, assistant superintendent of the Ohio State Fair market lamb show. “He is a face that will be truly missed at the Ohio State Fair for years to come.”
Although the Banburys are nearing the end of their own showing career, the family hopes to sponsor the memorial show into the future. They’re avid supporters of the FFA and 4-H program, and want to see the sheep program stay strong.
“We all had those opportunities and (now) we want it to be there for other people,” Jamie said.
For more about Banbury sheep or their lamb camp, visit www.banburyclublambs.com