EATON — According to the adult advisors, Grand Showman of Showmen is the most prestigious competition of the Preble County Fair. They say, if you are going to watch any show, watch Showman of Showmen. It is during this show the animal showmanship winners come together to prove who is the best-of-the-best. The kids have to compete with animals they may have never handled before, having to learn the rules and regulations during fair week.
The competition was held on Thursday, Aug. 3, and Michael Bridgeford was crowned Grand Showman of Showmen.
Bridgeford was this year’s poultry showman. He is a member of Somers Super Beef and has been a part of 4-H for nine years. He is the son of Emily and Jeff Bridgeford.
The way Grand Showman of Showmen is chosen, is the competitor with the lowest points accumulated at the end of the competition wins the whole thing. Bridgeford got only 18 points. He sat out of the poultry competition, as that was the showmanship category he originally won. He did the best on the dairy and rabbit competition, getting only one point on each. The worst he did was on the goat competition, with a total of six points.
After he received the Grand Showman of Showmen belt buckle, he said, “I’m stunned really. It was a hard show with a lot of competition. I’m just happy to win. I studied a lot for this show and I worked with every animal that I could.
“The hardest animal to learn was definitely rabbit, but I show poultry and rabbit and poultry go hand in hand, so I learned quickly and easily. The hardest one to show was goats, because my goat did not want to work with me today. He pulled and tugged and really worked me hard.”
He added, he didn’t get nervous during the competition. “I wanted to stay not-nervous and to relax,” he said. “I just wanted to have fun with it.”
“Michael is actually in my 4-H club, I’ve known him my entire life,” President of Junior Fair Board and Chair of Showman of Showmen Committee Carley Asher said. “He is very hard working and he is very experienced in all of the animals he exhibited tonight. He does show lambs and poultry already, along with cattle. He was very well rounded and experienced and he studied a lot. I know he worked hard today.”
Asher added, “The competitors are definitely competitive. Words can not even begin to describe how hard they worked for what they did tonight. I know that they all worked their butts off for what they’ve gotten out of this tonight. I know a lot of them were nervous, but they all had fun. That’s all that really matters.”
The competitors included every species showman winner.
This year’s horse showman was Jenna Klingenberger. She is a member of Preble County Patriots and has been a part of 4-H for four years. She is the daughter of Clarissa and Andy Klingenberger.
This year’s dairy showman is Kase Keating. He is a member of Jackson Young Farmers and has been a part of 4-H for one year. He is the son of Matthew Keating.
This year’s rabbit showman is Lynnlee Voge. She is a member of Spic ‘n’ Span Pots ‘n’ Pans and has been a part of 4-H for five years. She is the daughter of Aleesha and Eric Voge.
This year’s goat showman is Kaitlyn Lake. She is a member of Tailwaggers and has been a part of 4-H for 11 years. She is the daughter of Steve and Kathy Lake.
This year’s sheep showman is Haley Davidson. She is a member of All Star Livestock and has been a part of 4-H for three years. She is the daughter of Lille and Roger Davidson.
This year’s beef showman is Caroline Vonderhaar. She is a member of All Star Livestock and has been a part of 4-H for 11 years. She is the daughter of Alan and Rachael Vonderhaar. Caroline Vonderhaar tied for runner up with a grand total of 23 points. She did the best with goat and hogs, scoring only one point for each.
This year’s swine showman is Mackenzie Neal. She is a member of Somer Super Beef and has been a part of 4-H for five years. She is the daughter of Stacey Roell and Terry Neal. Mackenzie Neal tied for runner up with a grand total of 23 points. She did the best with sheep and steers, scoring only one point for each.
This year’s dog showman is Hannah Ashworth. She is a member of Tailwaggers and has been a part of 4-H for three years. She is the daughter of David Ashworth.
However, the competitors were not tested on dog knowledge. They had to work with all of the animals except the dogs. Instead, the dog showman was able to draw out of a hat the species they were able to sit out of. The dog showman also did a dog demonstration during the competition, to show the other showmanship winners what her showmanship was like.
Adult Advisor Ashley Fritz-Hartman explained, “The dogs are not here all week. The dogs are only here one day, but the rest of the animals are here all week. Rabbit showman, dog showman, and dairy showman are all named on Saturday. Chicken showman is named on Monday. Sheep showman is named on Tuesday. The horse showman is either named on Monday or Tuesday. At that point all the dogs are already gone. It’s not fair to the kids to try and work with a dog when they’re not at the fair anymore.”
“This is the competition to watch of fair,” Fritz-Hartman said.
“All the Showmen of each species is going to come out to show each animal to see who can do it the best. It’s pretty cool to watch these kids, because when you’re named showman you have to go around and find someone to show you how to show the different animals,” Fritz-Hartman said. “It’s difficult for the small animal guys, the small animal showmanship is based on knowledge, while these larger ones are based on how you handle the animals. There is still knowledge with that, but not as much as with the others.
“It’s really interesting to watch how, especially the rabbits and the chickens, interact with the big animals and vice versa, because you get these steer and big people trying to set up a rabbit or a chicken and they have no idea how to handle something so tiny. It’s really cool to watch and see how the night progresses,” she added.
The rules further state that the only time the competitors can ask questions is with horses. They are allowed a few minutes to talk to the owners before going out into the ring. However, no questions are allowed for the other animals. The competitors are expected to learn the animal in a week. Some of the competitors only have a few days to learn and they have to find people willing to teach them the specifics in that short of a time.
The winner of the competition receives a belt buckle at the end of the night.
Asher concluded, “The show went really well. I was really stressed out about it, it was really hot in here, but I think it went well.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH