Fair week’s a wrap
Number of white ribbons in pig judging sparks anger
Pork Chop and Babe didn't seem to mind.
The two pigs languished in the shady barn and occasionally raised their heads to take a sip of water, oblivious to the hustle and bustle of the goings on of last week's Leavenworth County Fair.
But Kyle Holloway, who is a member of the Lucky Clover 4-H Club, was a little disappointed because his pigs didn't qualify to sell at Friday night's livestock auction.
Pork Chop came in overweight, and in the livestock judging, Babe received a red ribbon and a white ribbon.
At the Leavenworth County Fair, animals that win white ribbons can't be sold at the auction.
For Kyle, this meant there would be no premium dollars for him to put in the bank. But, said Kyle, the judging didn't change the fate of his pigs.
He shrugged his shoulders, gestured toward Babe and said, "She was headed to the freezer anyway."
Disappointment at the fair
Dean Sheets, swine superintendent for more than 30 years, said more 4-H members in the swine department than usual were disappointed this year.
Of the swine entries, Sheets said, the judge awarded 50 blue ribbons, 46 reds and 45 whites.
"Personally, I think he was too liberal with the white ribbons," Sheets said. "But that was his opinion. There's no recourse. I know there's good hogs in here that got white ribbons."
One of the hog entries belonged to Raelynn Gildner, who received a white ribbon for her pig.
"I'm sad," Raelynn said Thursday.
Raelynn's mother, Becky Gildner, contacted area newspapers last week, expressing concern about the swine judging, and the fact that white ribbon winners were excluded from the premium auction.
Because of the way things turned out for her children, both of whom received white ribbons on their hogs, Gildner said it's unlikely her children will participate in 4-H livestock programs next year.
"They spend four to five months working with their animals day in and day out," Becky Gildner said. "I just think they should go ahead and let them sell them."
The final word
But Sheets, who likened the swine judge's decision to the calls of an umpire, said the word of the judge is final.
"The judging is his opinion, but still, it's official," Sheets said.
And, Sheets said, the judge was looking for specific hog characteristics.
"In the judging of the animals he was consistent all the way down through the show," Sheets said. "When he got his champions together, they all looked alike -- well muscled. He was definitely against fat. He was looking for the muscle."
During a telephone interview on Friday, Eddie Nichols, who was the judge at Tuesday's swine show, explained what characteristics he had been looking for.
"We try to evaluate them on a combination of traits that lend themselves to what the industry is looking for, whether that be cattle, sheep or hogs," Nichols said. "At this time the hog industry seems to be geared to lean, heavily muscled, fast-growing hogs."
The 4-H judging is based on the Danish system, Nichols said, adding: "Blue being excellent, red being good and white being average and we try to put them in the classification to the best of our ability."
Nichols, a Wichita banker, said he was aware before the judging began that only blues and reds could be sold at Friday night's auction.
A learning experience
Sheets, who hasn't missed a swine show since his own children started showing in 1964, said the auction premiums help 4-H members recoup their costs, and give them money to put in the bank.
"By not being in the sale they're not going to get the $300 to $400 premium," Sheets said. "That dollar sign might be up there in the back of their heads, but you've got to have some quality to go with it."
And, Sheets said, 4-H'ers should keep this in mind when planning for next year's fair.
"When they go to buy their pigs next year," Sheets said, "They'll have to look for a better pig and not go out there and buy any old pig."
Sy Nyhart, former Leavenworth County extension agent with 44 years experience as an extension agent in Kansas, said the proportion of white ribbons this year was greater than usual.
Although he didn't attend this year's swine judging, Nyhart said he realized the youths who received white ribbons were disappointed.
"But they can take it as a learning experience and figure out what they can do to get a better quality next year," Nyhart said.
And, Nyhart, who was a 4-H'er as a child, said 4-H is for the children.
"As a 4-H'er I got red and white ribbons," Nyhart said. "I learned from that and it didn't ruin me. On the other hand, my folks didn't tell me it ruined me, either. The point is, you need to learn what you can do to be better."
Just get over it
Meanwhile, Kyle Holloway's father, Jeff Holloway, said he agreed with the judge's decision on Kyle's pig, Babe.
"We're fine with it," Holloway said. "Like Dean Sheets said, it's like going to a baseball game and when you get the final call -- it's final."
But Holloway said he'd heard plenty of complaints.
"There's a lot of upset people," Holloway said. "They're just going to have to get over it."