Ohio State Fair: In the end, it’s not about winning


When Branden DeFrank of Jefferson County entered the ring at the Ohio State Fair Sale of Champions with his grand champion steer, he was joined by two youth holding banners. I recognized one teen as Branden’s sister, Kyleigh, who showed the grand champion at last year’s Ohio State Fair.

Then, Kyle Sharp, editor of Ohio’s Country Journal, murmured next to me, “I think that one kid holding the banner showed the reserve champion.”

Indeed, it was Grant Mcintosh of Brown County, with a nervous grin so proud you would have thought it was his steer under the spotlight.

That’s the beauty of 4-H and FFA and farm kids. It’s a major competition to be in the running for a champion at the Ohio State Fair, but it’s also about new friends and a new family at large.

Branden and Grant went neck and neck with their two steers during the most recent Ohio Cattlemen’s Association BEST (Beef Exhibitor Show Total) show series. Branden’s steer beat Grant’s steer three times, and Grant’s steer beat Branden’s steer three time. Along the way, they got to know each other pretty well.

The state fair was the final battle ground, and Grant lost (although showing the reserve champion at the Ohio State Fair is not ‘losing” by any stretch). But there he was, in the ring, supporting his buddy.

Don’t get me wrong. Everyone wants to win, no matter what the venue or event. But in the barns, or beside the show ring, or back in a youth’s very first 4-H club or FFA chapter meeting, there’s a new family of friends waiting, cheering, helping, caring. And that’s a life lesson that’s more valuable than learning how to select and care for and feed a market lamb.

Don’t know how to clip your steer? Here, I’ll show you. Forgot your show stick? I have a spare. Parents can’t drive you to the meeting? Hey, we’ll pick you up.

There’s a world that’s bigger than a blue ribbon, a world where people matter more than prizes.

Adults sometimes forget the community behind the competition, or the people around you who are still pulling for you. And right now, in this bleak ag economy, it might be a lesson worth remembering. No one can do it alone.

Sale of Champions Auctioneer Johnny Regula was right on the money, when he proclaimed at the start of the sale, “Wow! How fun is this!”

Spending time with good friends always is.

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