I love listening to livestock judges speak. I was on the livestock judging team when I was in high school and sometimes it’s appropriate to call a set of reasons beautiful. The way the words roll off the tongue and how they sound perfectly pieced together really matter, and it takes a lot of practice to get them to sound so effortless. If you’ve had the chance to attend a livestock show, maybe you know what I mean. If you haven’t, I encourage you to find out!

Wednesday evening I went back to a place that I love, a place I was dang near literally born into, and a place I called my summer home for many, many of my childhood years:  the Alameda County Fair. The past two years I had been unable to attend because of my summer internships, but I was pleased to find the fair just as it was when I was last able to attend, three years ago when I earned the highly coveted title of 2010 Alameda County Fair Champion FFA Market Hog with my barrow, Alejandro.


This is me and Alejandro when we crossed the auction block in 2010.

A few years back, my county fair decided to create a ‘Champion Night’, which is what I attended Wednesday. This is a night where all breed champions from various species would enter the ring to be flaunted in front of the judge one last time for a chance to earn the filet mignon of live animal placings: the Supreme Champion title. Exhibitors get their goats, lambs, hogs, and steers looking their absolute best by giving them baths, combing their hair, and then parading them around in the show ring. This is their last chance to show off what their plenty of hard working hours have amounted to over the past several months.

The level of competition varies from fair to fair, but at the Alameda County Fair, one could call the eagerness to achieve a team effort. You can find exhibitors helping their fellow 4-H and FFA members all week long, but when the gate to the ring is open, it’s every animal for their self, hoping to achieve greatness.

On Wednesday night, the cattle judge summed up the comradery of the parents, leaders, friends, family, and community members surrounding the show ring perfectly. His reaction to the cheering and clapping for the winners as well as each and every young person in the ring was to say this once he got back on the microphone:

“The only time I’ve seen this much enthusiasm is at Grandma’s BINGO party!”

Well, sir, this indeed isn’t Grandma’s BINGO party. This is a junior livestock show. A place that teaches young people the responsibility of caring for an animal, budgeting their hard earned money, organizing travel experiences, practicing ethics, and developing passion and drive that accomplishing hard work provides a positive outcome, no matter the end decision. The cattle judge that evening put all this into words like I had never heard it before but in a way that I really, really liked.

So the next time you’re able to attend a junior livestock show at your county fair, I encourage you to help applaud the hard work of the young people and their animals they have presented before you. However, you just might want to keep the urge to yell BINGO! under control.

If you are interested and able to attend the 2013 Alameda County Fair Junior Livestock Auction, check out their website for more information! The auction begins Sunday at 8:30 a.m. with rabbits and chickens with hogs to immediately follow, then a delicious BBQ lunch break, with steers and lambs to follow.


Mal the Beef Gal