When 4-H Junior Livestock Auction participants at the Park County Fair enter an animal to show, and to eventually sell, they dream of leaving with a Grand Champion, or even a Reserve Champion, once the smoke has cleared and the judges have spoken.
If things go exceptionally well, a participant might even win an additional buckle for showmanship. Presentation matters, and it is always reassuring to know that you presented your animal in the best possible way, professionally and gracefully, as to leave a positive impression of animal and owner alike.
What might be somewhat unrealistic to expect would be to produce a Grand Champion in the most prestigious competition all, a Reserve Champion in perhaps the most competitive group of all, to earn two more buckles as Grand Champion in Junior Showmanship with two different animals, and to add a fifth and final buckle in the Junior All-Around Showmanship category.
It might have been more than she expected, but Hayden Lane, an 11-year-old who attends Fitzsimmons Middle School, did just that last weekend at the Park County Fair.
“I knew I had a chance at Grand Champion in Market with my steer, but the rest of it was just a nice surprise,” Hayden said.
Five buckles in five categories left Hayden’s dad, Bobby, pleasantly surprised.
“I can’t even express how proud I am of Hayden,” Bobby said. “She did it all. She bought them, raised them, showed them and sold them. She worked really hard, and it’s a good lesson for her to see what can happen when she puts in the work. She also did a great job of speaking to potential buyers, marketing and showcasing the animal to them.”
The biggest prize of all was the one Hayden thought she had a shot at from the beginning – Grand Champion at Market for her 1,245-pound steer, affectionately known as “Refund.”
“This steer was born on April 15, hence the name,” Hayden’s dad explained.
Refund certainly looked the part of a Grand Champion, standing tall enough that Hayden could hardly be seen over his massive shoulders as she tip-toed for the post-auction photo. Apparently the buyer, Maverick Home Remodeling in Littleton, was impressed with Refund as well, purchasing him at a price of $7.50 per pound.
Hayden purchased the bull originally from local rancher, John Logan. Notably, the steer was bought entirely with funds acquired from the sale of hogs at previous fairs. This was the first time Hayden has shown a steer, but she has shown and sold hogs at the last four Park County Fair Junior Livestock Auctions.
There is an art to showing such a large animal, especially for an 11-year-old.
“You have to establish eye contact with the animal, and you have to have confidence when you handle him,” Hayden said. “You have to know what you are doing when you do it. The animals can tell if you don’t.”
That same approach also served Hayden well when she showed her hog, which finished as the Reserve Champion amongst a crowded field of stiff competition.
Last year’s auction provided a hint of things to come, when Hayden was deemed a Grand Champion in Junior Showmanship for the showing of her hog.
Hayden is currently taking time to reflect on a busy year, and she is also exploring different ways to assemble and display her treasure trove of buckles and ribbons.
“She (Hayden) is already starting to think about next year,” her dad said. “She is talking about looking at a couple of steers, and she is also talking about hogs again. I don’t know what she will decide. I try to let her make those calls and not to influence her decisions too much.”
Bobby and wife Allison should probably start making room for more animals, and Junior Livestock Auction participants had better start planning now if they hope to compete with Hayden Lane in 2020.