What are you celebrating this July 4th?
When my girls were little, they could not wait for July 4th. They were not looking forward to the hot dogs, apple pie and fireworks, no, they were looking forward to seeing their family — sheep family, that is.
The All-American Junior Sheep Show traditionally falls around this time of year. It is a national event bringing kids from across the country to one location to show off their sheep and their showmanship skills. But it isn’t just about garnering the top spot in the show ring. It is a time to play games, make new friends, connect with old ones and celebrate being a kid who raises sheep.
When my girls aged out of the show at 21, our family still traveled to the event to cheer on my nieces and nephews and my girls’ cousins. As a bonus, we reconnected with other breeders.
Unfortunately, this year the show, like many others, was canceled because of COVID-19. County and state fairs followed suit, leaving kids without a place to exhibit their breeding stock. And that did not set well with my little brother.
New kid on the block
My brother has five kids who are the third generation of Spoonster Hamps. They travel the state and country to competitions where they exhibit their flock of Hampshire sheep. Like my kids, it is what they look forward to in the summer. And as show after show was canceled, my brother saw the disappointment on their faces. He knew it wasn’t only his kids that felt this way.
He called first. Then texted. His comment was, “We have to give these kids something to look forward to. We have to give them a reason to get together and celebrate.” And with that, the Freedom Fest Breeding Sheep Jackpot Show was born.
Sure, in our industry there are jackpot shows for market lambs, but many in the sheep business raise breeding sheep, which we keep on the farm to produce more seedstock. No breeding sheep jackpot shows meant limited places for kids to show off their 4-H and FFA projects, let alone their family farm’s purebred genetics.
So, in just over a month, my brother created an event for this weekend (July 4-5). He enlisted the help of family and friends to pull it off. However, the Freedom Fest Breeding Sheep Jackpot Show would not be possible without the backing from the local community and sheep community.
Support for the show
The Pike County fair board welcomed the event to its fairgrounds near Bowling Green, Mo. Local businesses stepped up with sponsorships. Sheep breeders, ag lenders, farm and feed suppliers, and even other junior shows also offered donations. All the money raised goes back to the exhibitors.
And if you think this was about my brother tailoring a show to where his kids win, well, think again. The Spoonster Hamps Fab Five will only be in the ring helping run the show, just like the rest of their families.
You see, this was never about creating something that benefits one family. It is about coming alongside our youth when the world seems so heavy, from viruses to riots, and giving them something to enjoy. They need to be around their friends. They need to be active with their animals. They need to be around family — whether by blood or by barn.
Instead of moaning or complaining about the way things have been or are going, it takes just one — one person to step up, one vision to turn the tide, and one stock show dad to say this July 4th we celebrate — our country, our kids and our farms. I’m deeply proud that my brother was that individual.
So, again I ask, what are you celebrating this July 4th? If you don’t have an answer, might I suggest you head over to the Pike County Fairgrounds either day? There is no cost to sit in the stands or bring your lawn chair, watch a few shows and celebrate our youth in agriculture.
For more on the show, visit us on Facebook.