By Ana Alexander
DASSEL, MN From a chicken barbecue contest to a poultry quiz, Dassel siblings Nathan Weckwerth, 17, and Eleanor Weckwerth, 15, had a wide variety of tasks to accomplish for the seventh-annual Poultry Prince and Princess competition at the Minnesota State Fair.
This year, Nathan Weckwerth was crowned as the 2016 Poultry Prince, while Molly Lindgren from Staples was crowned as the Poultry Princess. Eleanor Weckwerth was runner-up for Poultry Princess, and Wyatt Tesch of Mayer a runner-up for Poultry Prince. Other finalists included Mariah Huberty of Harris and Charles Miller of Kasson.
The Poultry Prince and Princess scholarship program is sponsored by Minnesota 4-H and Gold’n Plump. The six finalists of the competition go through three rounds of contests before judges make their final decision. The rounds include a 4-H interview, quiz, and showmanship competition; a 4-H chicken barbecue contest; and a Q&A and stage presence round.
The contest included a judging round, where finalists had to look at a variety of characteristics in eggs and birds, and judge how each should be graded.
“You’re competing with the other poultry kids to try and see who is the best at figuring out what is actually a good egg or bird,” Eleanor said.
While both Eleanor and Nathan felt prepared for the competition, Nathan felt the judging portion of the competition was the most challenging.
“I thought the judging contest was probably the hardest for me,” Nathan said. “There are a lot of different factors that go into judging.
For Eleanor, the barbecue contest was the most difficult.
“Probably the barbecue contest, because neither of us are super experienced in cooking in general. We can both cook chicken pretty well though, because we eat a lot of it,” Eleanor said.
To enter the competition, contestants must have a background in the poultry industry. According to Nathan, they have more experience with the industry at a local level, rather than at a commercial level.
“Our family has had chickens for as long as I can remember,” Nathan said. “I’ve always had a fun time raising them.”
Nathan and Eleanor are the children of Jeff and Melissa Weckwerth of rural Dassel. Recently, the Weckwerth family has begun to breed their own birds.
“For the past three years, we’ve been breeding our own certain breeds,” Eleanor said. “This year, we probably ended up with around 150 birds.”
Participants in the competition must also be involved in 4-H. Nathan has been an active member of 4-H for 11 years, and Eleanor has been a member for nine years both joined 4-H when they were in first grade. Both have held leadership positions during their time in 4-H, which is one of Eleanor’s favorite parts of being involved in the organization.
“My favorite aspect would definitely be the leadership opportunities. We’ve both previously been leaders, so it has been really great to learn leadership skills,” Eleanor said.
As the newly crowned Poultry Prince, Nathan will serve as the official Poultry Prince Ambassador for the upcoming year. Acting as the poultry ambassador includes visiting local fairs and events, where he can increase awareness of the poultry industry. He is excited to reach out to people in the community and help educate them about the industry.
“The [poultry] industry employs 26,000 people in Minnesota. It is a pretty big thing that not too many people know about,” Nathan said.
Another benefit of the competition is the $1,000 academic scholarship Gold’n Plump awards to the Poultry Prince and Princess.
“It was really cool that Gold’n Plump provided our $1,000 scholarship,” Nathan said.
While the two felt like the competition had a variety of different activities and benefits to offer, they also felt like they made great connections with other kids with similar interests.
“You meet so many different kids, all competing for the same title,” Eleanor said. “We both made a lot of friendships.”