LORE CITY, Ohio — Long-time hog judge, Darell Furlong, of Wilmington, Ohio, began his final show before retirement by reminding the 4-H’ers and families what his first priority was and has always been.
“Today is the children’s day,” he said as he closed out his hog-judging career at the Guernsey County Fair, Sept. 10. “Let it be their day.”
He offered a few showmanship pointers and invited questions. Finally, in an emotional announcement, he thanked the fairgoers for their graciousness over the years and at his final show.
“If things were to end all around for me today, I can look back and say I’ve been a very blessed man,” Furlong said.
Furlong has judged at the Guernsey County Fair over a dozen times, according to Ginny Barker, a retired ag teacher and volunteer at the fair. He decided to end his career there.
“Guernsey County always just captured me with the people,” Furlong said. “They’re so receptive to positive things. They truly believe in the children and the program instead of just a trophy … they’ve always just welcomed me with open arms.”
Before the show, Barker and the hog committee presented Furlong with a plaque and recognized him for his years of judging.
“He’s special to our fair because he always put the kids first,” Barker said. “He’s an exceptional individual, and we thought recognizing him was the least that we could do for him.”
“I’ve always tried to be a teacher and mentor more than a judge,” Furlong said. “I just want every child when they leave that ring … to be able to say that was a very positive experience.”
Furlong grew up showing hogs in 4-H and the FFA. His family raised hogs.
“When I was younger, I used to sit along ringside and kind of would idolize certain judges,” Furlong said. “I was a product of the system.”
Furlong got his start at 17 when a judge he knew invited him to help at a show.
“The bug bit me, and I was gone,” Furlong said.
Furlong learned about judging and the hog industry from his experience on his FFA livestock judging team and from other judges. Over the years, he has judged in 35 states, and in Canada, at a district show. Furlong also taught livestock evaluation and judging as an adjunct at Wilmington College.
Connie Furlong, Darell’s wife, said Darell Furlong was already a hog judge and a 4-H adviser when she met him. Their three children were all involved in 4-H and FFA growing up. Connie Furlong and one of their sons, Jason, came to Darell’s final show.
“It’s a milestone for him,” she said.
After retiring, Darell Furlong is looking forward to spending more time with his family.
“It’s just time,” Furlong said. “As you go through life … you come to the end of a chapter; you turn the page and start a new chapter.”
Furlong brought Matthew Knott, who got his start with Furlong in a similar way, to help him judge the show.
Furlong met Knott when he judged at the Champaign County Fair. Knott and his three siblings showed hogs at the Champaign Fair as children, and Furlong judged for them multiple times.
“Those children always had a passion, just a drive to get better,” Furlong said.
They always had questions to ask after shows, and over time Furlong became a mentor to them.
“They’re like second children to me,” Furlong said.
When Knott was 17, Furlong took him to a show in Kentucky to help judge. Now, Knott has also judged around the country.
“He gave me that chance,” Knott told the 4-H’ers before the show.
The day before the show, Knott judged in Wayne County. He didn’t get home until 2 a.m., but he got up a few hours later to do it all again so he could help at Furlong’s last show.
New chapter. At the Guernsey Fair, the 4-H’ers showed to Knott while Furlong observed, and the two conferred on placing. They took turns announcing for each class.
After showing, several 4-H’ers told Furlong they had started their 4-H careers with him as a judge. It was a final show for some of them, too.
Furlong called the experience “bittersweet and melancholy at the same time.”
“It was a tremendous experience,” he said after the show. “I would like to thank people everywhere who have been so gracious to me over the years. I’ve been God blessed.”
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