PARK RIVER, N.D. -- With short, quick spritzes of hair spray, a few snips of the scissors and a final combing, Reagan Hanson had Zeus’ shiny, black coat ready for inspection by Walsh County judges.
Reagan was one of about 30 youths from across Walsh County who entered cattle in the fair’s beef classes on Thursday, Oct. 17. The fair, which began Wednesday, Oct. 1 6, and runs through Saturday morning, has been a fixture in Walsh County since it was established in 1914.
The county fair annually draws more than 150 competitors and dozens of their supporters to watch children and teenagers show their animals and poultry, and to exhibit the static projects they’ve worked on during the past year.
For Reagan and other competitors, the fair is the culmination of months of work with their projects. Livestock judges want the animals to look their best, so Zeus’ appearance from head to tail was important.
“They’ll be looking at the loin and ribs and to see how they carry themselves,” Reagan said.
She has worked with Zeus since his February 2019 birth, initially petting him and gaining his trust, then later getting him accustomed to being led, she said.
The Grafton High School sophomore is a veteran of showing horses and rabbits, but this is the first time she’s entered a steer in the fair. Showing at the Walsh County Fair gives her opportunities to work with a variety of livestock, something Reagan enjoys.
“I really love animals, especially beef,” she said.
Tied next to Zeus was the beef entry off Sawyer Miller. Sawyer, 11, of Lankin, N.D., was ready on Thursday for the judge's questions about his entry's stats, including breed, date of birth and weight.
“Shorthorn heifer, July 2018, 1,006 pounds," Sawyer said, without hesitation. Being calm is key to showing animals, he said.
“Don’t get nervous,” Sawyer said.
Meanwhile, he, like, Reagan, worked to make the beef animal he was showing look good for the judges.
“You have to wash it. You have to comb it,” he said.
Taking care of livestock is a good experience for children and teens, said Brad Brummond, Walsh County 4-H agent.
“It teaches them responsibility, it teaches them patience, and it teaches them empathy,” he said. ”Those are three qualities that should be passed on to this world.”
Besides livestock, there were a lot of entries in the Walsh County Fair’s static competition. For example, 50 quilts of varying kinds were judged during the fair.
“Everything from baby quilts to big quilts,” said Julie Zikmund, a quilt judge.
Quilting appears to be regaining its popularity, so the number of entries was no surprise, she said.
"I think it’s come back," she said.
During a time when many entries in county fairs across North Dakota have drastically declined, the number of Walsh County Fair entries have stayed steady. That’s because support for the county’s 4-H program is strong, continuing through generations, Brummond said.
“We have a lot of families in the county who have been doing this over 50 years, maybe over 100," he said.