Duke wins

Isabel Garcia’s 271-pound hog named Duke was deemed best of the bunch by judges and hauled in $7.50 per pound at auction. Duke was the Grand Champion in Market at Park County Fair’s Junior Livestock Auction.   (Photo by Kelly Kirkpatrick/The Flume)

Events surrounding the 2019 Park County Fair will likely always hold a place within the halls of Isabel Garcia’s fondest memories.

Garcia, a freshman at Platte Canyon High School, was busy preparing and showing her 271-pound hog through much of the day as part of the Junior Livestock Auction. Her efforts were rewarded as her hog, Duke, won Grand Champion for Market and yielded a whopping $7.50 per pound.

Later that evening, Garcia was crowned as the incoming Park County 4-H Royalty Princess. Nisa Garcia, a PCHS senior and outgoing Queen Attendant, proudly did the honors of crowning little sister Isabel in an emotional coronation ceremony.

Both the auction and the coronation provided considerable personal satisfaction for Garcia, and both represented the culmination of hard work, dedication and long-held childhood aspirations.

“It was a great day,” Garcia said. “We came to the fair about five years ago, and I knew then that I wanted to be a part of the Junior Livestock Auction. I also watched my sister serve as Princess and tagged along at many of the events she worked over the last year. She’s the reason I wanted to become royalty. I have also always struggled with being shy, and I’m hoping serving as royalty will help some with that too.”

Typical of one who harbors a genuine personal passion for a particular craft, Garcia took full advantage of her early opportunities as a participant in the Junior Livestock Auction. Even at the tender age of 12, Garcia’s thoughtful and thorough approach to nurturing and developing animals paid off when her lamb won Reserve Grand Champion for Market.

Isabel’s father, Andrew, insists that her work ethic and organizational skills have been central to her success.

“I’m very proud of Isabel,” her dad said. “She works hard, and is very dedicated. She is up when I leave for work caring for her animals. She has been taking all the extra steps, so I am not surprised by her success.”

Like most Junior Livestock participants, Isabel is remarkably independent in terms of managing her business and handling her finances.

“Isabel is also on her own now in terms of saving and investing her money, and she takes care of all the financial aspects of her business,” Andrew said. “She makes it, saves it and invests it as she sees fit.”

Garcia grew up in a ranching environment, and understands well the positive impact the daily responsibilities of ranching and the real life lessons it teaches can have on youngsters. Consequently, he and his wife Amanda encourage and support their kids in all of their 4-H efforts.

“We believe strongly in the ranching lifestyle, and the qualities it instills in these kids,” Garcia said. “We think it’s a worthy investment because it teaches them about life, death, responsibility, accountability, business and social skills, and the list goes on. I don’t know where else kids would get that like they do in ranching communities, or in the ranching lifestyle.”

Simply feeding and cleaning up after an animal is a formidable task. But managing the detail-oriented aspects of buying, raising, showing and selling an animal is an extremely demanding endeavor that requires the constant attention of owners. Regardless of age or experience, there are no shortcuts in the bottom-line business of livestock sales.

“If one of my animals so much as coughs or sneezes, I notice it,” Isabel said with a chuckle.

As Isabel can attest, however, regardless of an owner’s efforts or experiences, all animals simply are not cut out to be Grand Champions.

“Last year I had a pig that weighed 315 pounds,” Isabel said. “He was bigger than any of the other pigs and the judges thought he was just too fat. So I was kind of worried, since I had bad luck with a big pig last year, because I had the biggest pig again this year. But it worked out this time.”

Isabel offered some exceptionally insightful thoughts when asked about the emotional attachment she develops with her animals, and how she deals with the harsh reality of having to sell them at auctions for eventual human consumption.

“I am attached to all of my animals,” she said. “I hear people say they get over that, and that they learn not to get attached. But honestly, I think if you don’t feel some attachment to them, then maybe you shouldn’t be in the business. I like to give animals the best life they can possibly live while they are with me.”

Just a few of the interesting practices Isabel and others utilize to produce Grand Champion quality pigs include multiple, consistent feedings each day, frequent brushing, socialization and training for auction, and the regular application of coconut lotions and sunscreens as skin conditioners and protectants from the sun.

“You get out of it what you put into it,” Isabel said of livestock sales. “The results you get are almost always determined by how much work you put in.”

Meanwhile, Garcia will soon learn to juggle the responsibilities of high school, caring for her animals and serving as an ambassador for 4-H, Park County, the Park County Fair, the sport of rodeo, the ranching lifestyle, and more.

But if the recent past serves as any indication of what to expect from Garcia in the future, she will dutifully put in the necessary work, plus some, and the results will speak for themselves.

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