Judging teams on Great American Ride


If you listen to country music, you have heard Toby Keith’s new song, Great American Ride. Over the past couple of months, I have heard it countless times while the 4-H and collegiate judging teams have been traveling to different judging competitions.

Strong connection

As I was singing along, there was a moment I realized a strong connection to this song and our judging experiences. WE were on a “Great American Ride.” With enthusiasm, I pointed this out to the kids, but they quickly reminded me that Toby’s lyrics were rather sarcastic.

Not to be outdone, I suggested that we would just fill in with our own version of what the great American ride meant to each us on these dairy judging trips.

Soon, those close enough to the radio were reminding me when the song was playing. Each time I turned it up while singing and moving with the rhythm of the tune. My actions usually prompted some interesting conversation between the kids, myself, Bernie Heisner and Kelly Epperly.

We enjoyed listening to their thoughts and beliefs and they too asked us many questions about our life’s experiences and how it used to be.

Key points learned

Following here, I have summarized some key points that I learned on our “Great American Rides!”

– These kids are connected to their parents and home. Some have been born and raised around cows; others had exposure to livestock. Each possessed a strong sense of respect for their roots, and I was aware that it was a pleasure traveling with “Great American Kids.”

– As a group, we were homogeneous, but we all had a healthy appreciation for diversity. The farm visits gave us the opportunity to judge all breeds of dairy cattle. Some dairies had wealthy owners with many employees, and others introduced us to three generations of their family working the farm together pursuing their version of the “Great American Dream!”

– Besides the trip, everyone was attempting to maintain responsibilities at home. Cell phones kept them in touch. One young lady was ordering food for a booth at the Farm Science Review, another was getting assignments from class, someone had a truck that needed repaired, and yet another was studying for an audition in an upcoming play. Multitasking is the norm for this “Great American Generation.”

– Good humor was never missing. Let’s just say that we did not always have the best sense of direction, some of us look funny when we sleep and Bernie loves the pleasure of dining out and treating us all. The ability to laugh at and with each other was a very important part of our “Great American Story.”

– Volunteers like Bernie and Kelly are worth their weight in gold! Bernie provided more than coaching! His stories of life in the career world were lessons that will be remembered and Kelly is the just the right mix between the generations. What a pleasure to have Noel Alden travel with us to Madison. Having been on a judging team a few years back, his expertise was an asset for us all. By the way, his daughter was on the 4-H team! Kudos for “Great American Volunteers.”

– Dressing appropriately for judging competitions was a must. My interpretation required a haircut, dark suits, the proper tie and color of shirt, buttons and hemlines in good repair and clothing articles that were freshly pressed. All contribute to “Great American Confidence.”

– There was no substitute for good manners. Showing our appreciation, congratulating others on success, picking up a suitcase, cell phones and texting at APPROPRIATE times, and politely listening to that Reasons CD for the 10th time were all practices in place before any Ohio judge stepped out of the van on our “Great American Road Trip.”

Six contests

There have been six separate dairy judging contests that Ohio has participated in within the past month. Four were collegiate and two were 4-H. At one point, there was a team judging in Wisconsin and two teams in Pennsylvania on the same weekend.

Many thanks to Bill Langle (OSU alum, parent and former OSU judging team member) who assisted with the team in Wisconsin.

The season still continues as we are now preparing teams for the Louisville contest. On the pages of this newspaper or on Web sites, you can read about our impressive results.

However, these sorts of facts could not begin to tell the story of the personal commitment these kids give in the pursuit of excellence. Much of their story is left untold!

The personal struggles and triumphs that go into each set of reasons that are written and presented, the countless hours of dedicated volunteers, the expenses that are covered by our contributors and the support of our families are all missing elements.

Rehearsal for life

This article should prove that judging cows is really more like a dress rehearsal for life. Move over Toby, I’ve got my own version of the Great American Ride!

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