Farm Horizons, Oct. 2016
Competing in Minnesota State Fair requires time, dedication
By Ana Alexander
Randi Bayerl, 14, secures her purebred Shorthorn Plus heifer in the barn on her family’s farm in Silver Lake before beginning the process of grooming its silky black coat of hair.
Her father, Scott Bayerl, owner of B&B Tire & Auto Repair in Winsted, watches his daughter with pride as she leads the heifer out of the barn to demonstrate her showmanship skills. Bayerl uses a show stick, a long stick with a brush at the end, to calm the heifer and move her into place.
Bayerl is a Winsted Jolly Juniors 4-H club member, and recently competed at the Minnesota State Fair with her purebred breeding heifer, which ranked sixth place. For showmanship, which is judging how Bayerl handles the animal, she won seventh out of 40 competitors.
It’s been a long process for Bayerl, who has dreamt of competing at the state fair since she was a child.
“It’s been a goal of mine ever since I was little,” Bayerl said. “[4-H] has a Cloverbud class, which is through third grade. Once you’re out of third grade, then you can show by yourself. Then, once you finish sixth grade, you’re able to go to the state fair.”
4-H members who wish to compete at the state fair must first make it through the county fair. For Bayerl, that county fair takes place the week before the state fair. Participants must make it to the state fair lineup, in which judges from the county fair place competitors based on their scores. She was one of 12 4-H members from McLeod County who moved forward this year.
There are entry fees for competing, but for those involved in 4-H, the fees are typically less, due to financial assistance from the participant’s county, according to Rachel Moe, 21, of Hayfield. Moe has competed at the state fair with 4-H for eight years, and for five years with FFA.
“Our county (Dodge) helps us out a lot, so it’s a very small cost,” Moe said. “It is very small compared to what it would be if we had to get a hotel too they have dorms available.”
Those who participate in the state fair are eligible for the Minnesota State Fair Rural Youth Scholarship, which awards up to 20 scholarships of $1,000 to help further the education of rural youth.
The state fair also includes the FFA livestock show, which typically runs four days of the fair. Students regularly enrolled in an agricultural education program, or who are active members of an FFA chapter are eligible to compete.
For those looking to compete in the state fair without having to qualify in county fairs, entering the open class livestock categories may be an option.
Every year, entry forms for open class livestock are available in early June. Those who wish to submit an entry online may visit the Minnesota State Fair website to register and find the closing entry date for each category.
For those who wish to enter the horse competitions, there are 17 different classes in the Lee & Rose Warner Coliseum, and eight in the AgStar Arena.
The process for entering horse classes is similar to the open class livestock. The entry forms are also available in early June.
There are also opportunities for those who would like to compete in agricultural, horticultural, and bee culture competitions. The “Ag-Hort-Bee” classes include a variety of options for competitions.
The Ag-Hort-Bee premium book, which contains rules and more information on the competition, is available every year online the first Monday in May.
Entering the fair requires lengthy preparation. After participants are registered and entered, they must begin working on their showmanship.
“You have to work all summer if you want to be on the level that the other competitors are at. You have to work every day, all summer,” Moe said. “It’s a long process. You have to wash your animal to make it look nice. And that’s just at home going to the show should be nothing like the work you do at home.”
Bayerl also goes through a lengthy process to prepare for the state fair. Her routine includes waking up at 6 a.m. every morning to bring her animals in from outside and feed them.
“At 9, I go back down, rinse them, and blow them out, and that helps their hair grow. If you keep them under fans, it’ll help the hair grow even more, so you can fill in divots in their body. You want their legs really big, so if they have long hair, it’ll help more.”
Width and height of animals is one characteristic judges take into consideration. Stout and wide animals are typically judged the highest. Judges also pay attention to how “feminine” or “pretty” the animals walk.
“Some cattle cover their tracks,” Bayerl said. “So, when they lead the front leg, the back leg goes in that exact same spot, which is what you want.”
Judges also tend to prefer purebreds.
“It’s hard to get in if you have a commercial animal, if they don’t look as nice, because the judges look towards the purebreds more,” Bayerl said. “You still have a chance, it’s just harder.”
Once each participant showcases, the judges take anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour to give out the results.
For those who wish to compete in the Minnesota State Fair in the future, Bayerl has one piece of advice: “All your hard work eventually pays off,” Bayerl said. “Never give up.”
Minnesota State Fair Competition Categories
• 4-H categories: beef and dairy cattle, dairy and meat goats, poultry, rabbits, sheep, swine, and llamas.
• FFA categories: beef cattle, dairy cattle, swine, sheep, meat goats, crops, judging contests, safe tractor operator’s contests, and landscape design and construction.
• Open class livestock categories: beef cattle, dairy cattle, poultry, rabbits, swine, sheep, boer goats, dairy goats, llamas, and stock dog trials.
• Ag-Hort-Bee categories: farm crops, crop art and scarecrow, flowers, fruit and wine, vegetable and potato, bee and honey culture, and Christmas trees.
More information can be found at the Minnesota State Fair website: mnstatefair.org/competition/how_to_enter.html, or by calling the competition office at (651) 288-4417.