BY SUSAN REDDEN AND ROGER McKINNEY
Area residents who want to see the best among cattle, sheep and goats raised in the region can head to county fairs under way in Carthage and Neosho.
Youngsters are tending to their animals and displaying other projects at the Jasper County Youth Fair in Carthage and the Newton County Fair in Neosho. Both continue through Saturday, offering exhibits, activities and entertainment.
This is his first year at the Jasper County Youth Fair, but by Wednesday, Klayton Richardson, of Carl Junction, already was able to sum up what brings people back each year to the summertime gathering.
“It’s a great atmosphere — like a community or a family,” said Richardson, 15, who is showing a cow he said will calve during the fair. “Everyone helps each other.”
He said about his cow giving birth, “It’s going to happen while she’s here, so I’m sleeping in the barn with her.”
The youth fair, which started Saturday, attracts hundreds of young people from across the county to Carthage Municipal Park. As members of 4-H clubs and FFA organizations, they enter cattle, sheep, goats and other animals they have raised, and compete in dozens of other categories ranging from aerospace projects to woodworking.
The family atmosphere is literal for many at the fair — the competition attracts siblings, and parents accompany their youngsters to support them in their projects.
Twins Sadie and Grace Maples, 13, were showing two goats that came from a set of quadruplets born on their Carthage farm.
Amelia Maples, the twins’ mother, said the two girls raised the goats from birth after the mother goat died.
“They bottle-fed them from the start; they weighed two pounds when they were born,” she said.
Taylor Beck, 17, of Carl Junction, has a steer entered in the fair but on Wednesday was lending a hand to her niece, Grace Beck, 9. The younger Beck was bathing a bottle calf she had entered.
“This is her first year; I’ve been coming for 12 years,” Taylor said.
The people at the fair are what she likes best about the event.
“Everyone is so nice and helpful,” she said. “My steer got loose when we were unloading and everybody just jumped in and helped.”
Hailey Gilbreath, 16, of Carl Junction, and sister Evelyn, 10, were cleaning up after chickens that were among their entries at the fair. Both also show rabbits and already had won blue and red ribbons.
Melissa Gilbreath, the girls’ mother, said she likes the fair experience for them because it teaches them responsibility and how to care for animals.
Charlene Roper, of Carl Junction, agreed. Her daughter, Halle, was showing goats, sheep and rabbits, and had won “best of show” with one of her rabbits.
“If I could change something, it would be the heat,” she said.
Fans of every size and variety were stirring air in all the fair buildings in an attempt to keep the animals and contestants comfortable. Temperatures were in the 90s.
Fair veteran Sarah Anibal, 17, of Carthage, said the fair has grown over the years, along with the number of buildings.
“There’s more buildings and more show rings, and there’s more people from the community who come out and get involved.”
Anibal said the fair is part of her life on the farm, adding “every year, we bring our best to show.”
The same is true in Neosho where youngsters on Wednesday were at the Newton County Fairground busy preparing their animals for the start of the fair.
The fair continues through Saturday.
“Tanya, you’re stubborn,” 12-year-old Haylee Austin, of Diamond, scolded an uncooperative goat she was trying to lead. It turns out, Tanya is her sister Katelyn’s goat.
“She’s ornery,” Haylee said when asked about the exchange. She said she also had goats to show.
“We always feed them at least two buckets of feed every day and make sure they have plenty of water and it’s clean,” she said. “We make sure their hoofs are trimmed and we practice leading them.”
She said it’s always a question as to whether the goats will behave when it’s time to judge them.
Siblings Allen and Dorothy Smith, of Wheaton, also were getting their goats ready. Allen is 7 and Dorothy is 8. Their grandmother, Jo McLemore, said though the fair officially started on Wednesday, Allen and Dorothy have been at the fairground since last week.
“They’ve been up here every day for a week,” McLemore said. She said they also entered vegetables they grew in their garden.
“They like to garden,” she said.
Dorothy was showing two goats at the fair.
“This one has the little curl on its tail that the judges look for,” she said.
Allen, whose goat was tabbed reserve grand champion last year, entered the same goat this year.
Their dad, Lee Smith, watched as Dorothy tried to walk her goat, which also was being uncooperative. He said at home the goat follows Dorothy everywhere.
“It’s always interesting when you’ve got kids up here,” Smith said. “There’s never a dull moment.”
Brothers Tanner Thomas, 10, and Tyler Thomas, 9, both of Neosho, brought their pigs to the fair, and a rabbit. Another brother, Travis, 6, also was on hand, learning for future fairs.
“I’ve been talking with it and petting it,” Tyler said of how he prepared his pig.
“I don’t know if he can tell what he’s saying or not,” Tanner said, admitting that he sometimes also talks with his pig.
Their mother, Brandy Bevis, was on hand to oversee the activity.
“I did it when I was their age and now they’re doing it,” she said.
Toby Friend, 16, of Neosho, was multitasking — texting on his mobile phone while simultaneously brushing his cow, and for a time, being interviewed. He said this is his first year to have an animal in the fair, so others are likely to have an advantage.
“She’s more like a pet,” Friend said of the cow.
In another family group, twins Ashton Garrett and Ashley Garrett, 15; Amber Garrett 14; and Austin Garrett, 10, each were washing their own cows. They’re from rural Miami, Okla. Ashton said the cows were hard work, requiring them to wake up early every morning to wash, walk, brush and feed their animals.
Austin was asked about his chances.
“I don’t know, really,” he said. “I hope I get first or second or third.”