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More than just good showmanship: 4-H emphasizes responsibility, collaboration and mentorship at the San Mateo County Fair
June 14, 2013, 05:00 AM By Sally Schilling Daily Journal

Sally Schilling/Daily Journal Marissa Smith, 16, won first place in the 4-H senior goat showmanship and market goat competitions.

The San Mateo County Fair greets visitors with high-pitched carnival music, aromas of deep-fried foods and the roaring of rickety rides. The overwhelming sights and smells can pull you in all directions at once.

The faint sounds and smells of livestock can pull the curious to the 4-H barn and arena. The area is filled with pigs, sheep, goats, cattle, chickens, turkeys and rabbits that young 4-H members have put months — and some even years — of work into getting them ready for competition.

Makayla Arvin, 16, of Redwood City, spent four months raising her pig that is now well over 200 pounds. She spent a lot of time this year walking her pig up and down a hill to get it ready for the fair. Walking the hill allowed the pig to build good shoulder muscle and get rid of flabby fat, said Arvin, who has been in 4-H for 10 years.

She sat with her friends in the arena stands and watched the goat showmanship competition. She explained that showmanship is all about the owner.

“Showmanship really shows which kids work with their animals and which don’t,” said Arvin.

Many of the senior 4-H members have shown several types of animals. Some started as young as 5 years old raising chickens or rabbits, said Arvin.

“It’s all about practice with every animal,” said Declan Kellogg, 14, winner of this year’s lamb showmanship competition.

As a showmanship winner, Kellogg qualifies to compete in the masters competition. He will have to prove to judges he can successfully show several different types of large animals including steer, pigs, goats and horses, he said.

“That shows if you’re really a good showman,” he said.

Kellogg and Arvin looked on as the novice group presented their goats before the judge. Gasps and giggles erupted from the audience as one girl struggled to settle her small, excited goat.

“She’s going through what we went through,” said Arvin, remembering her first years in 4-H. “I give her credit for using that little goat.”

When things go wrong in the ring, Jenette Masarie tries to smile and roll with the punches.

“You have to act like you can handle it,” said Masarie, 15, member of Cañada 4-H.

Along with training to show the animals, 4-H members learn the anatomy of their livestock.

“Part of showmanship is knowing the body parts,” said Kellogg.

He watched as judge Kent Benson quizzed the senior goat group about the animal’s digestive system.

Judges will sometimes ask contestants about other people’s animals to really test their knowledge, said Masarie, who wants to become a veterinarian.

Arvin pointed to one girl in the ring.

“You can tell that girl really worked with her goat because it lets her do anything she wants to it,” she said.

That girl was 16-year-old Marissa Smith from San Jose. She went on to win first place in the showmanship and market goat competitions. This is Smith’s sixth year in 4-H, but her first year showing a goat.

“I love showing all species,” she said. “I want to be a large animal vet.”

Smith likes showing cattle the best because they are “easy-going.” What she enjoys most about the competitions is meeting new people.

“I like to spread my knowledge,” said Smith, who has spent her week at the fair helping other participants with their animals. “Seeing them do good makes me excited, and it makes them excited.”

Ruth Taillon of Half Moon Bay said her 4-H girls have benefited from Smith’s helpful attitude.

“I think that’s the kind of role model I want my kids to see,” she said of Smith.

Taillon’s 10-year-old daughter Amanda won second place in the junior showmanship competition with her pygmy goat named Maverick.

“He loves the show ring,” said Amanda. “When he goes into the ring, he just puts on his charm.”

Amanda’s sister Rachael, 8, also showed a pygmy goat.

“I like meeting the people I’m up against,” said Rachael, who also enjoys teaching other kids about her animals at her mom’s preschool.

For Taillon, 4-H is not about entering her daughters in competitions, it’s about personal growth.

“It’s just such a good way to teach them about work ethic,” she said.

Taillon leaves it to her daughters to be in charge of maintaining their animals.

“It teaches them responsibility and caring for another life,” she said.

For more information on 4-H, visit:

The San Mateo County Fair runs Saturday, June 8 through Sunday, June 16 at the San Mateo County Events Center, 2495 S. Delaware St. in San Mateo. It opens from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends and noon to 10 p.m. on weekdays. The carnival will remain open until 11 p.m. nightly. General admission to the fair includes the musical performance. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for children 6 to 12 years old and seniors 62 years old and older; and kids under 5 are free. A carnival pass is $30. Parking is $10. All main stage concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. General admission is included in the fair ticket price and VIP tickets are also available at an additional cost.



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