Dairy show gives special needs youth a unique opportunity
BY DEBBIE PAGE
Junior dairy exhibitors hosted a unique experience for special needs youth on Saturday afternoon at the Iredell County Agricultural Fair, assisting them in a simulated dairy show in front of an enthusiastic group of friends and family.
Participants first got acquainted with their assistants and jersey calves, learning the calves’ names, ages, and a few other details so they could answer Judge Nancy Keith’s questions during the “show.”
The youth then practiced walking the calves around the ring several times before Keith called them forward one at a time to speak into the microphone, giving their names and answering a few questions about the calves.
Most giggled and grinned through the “judging” process, smiling broadly as they petted their new animal buddy and thoroughly enjoying the dairy show experience.
After the judging, each participant was presented a $25 dollar prize and a large blue ribbon in recognition of their efforts. Southeast Tubular Products provided the prize money for the event.
Keith, who supervises dairy events at the NC State Fair, was pleased with the turnout for the local event, which is in its second year. “They do this show down in Raleigh, so we decided to do it here last year to see how it would go. Last year we had three participants, with seven attending this year.”
“I think it gives the kids a chance to be close to the animals, and they actually work with the animals and take on some of the responsibilities in the ring," said Keith. "It’s also good for our dairy youth to work with these participants. They’re the ones who really get the joy out of it.”
Keith felt the show also helps the participants’ confidence. “I thought they did really well. If I asked them if they wanted to speak into the microphone, some of them thought they didn’t want to at first and then they did anyway. It’s a big step for some of these participants.”
Junior exhibitor Rachel Gray said, “I think it was good to see people who have not been around the animals as much as we have, that don’t have the same experience in life as we do, to see them do this.”