Smiles, steers top Friday's fair

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— It is hard to stay calm in a sea of chaos. It is even harder when you are holding onto an unpredictable 1,300-pound steer.

But as steers broke loose, laid down and even licked the judge, 11-year-old Sarajane Rossi smiled, stayed calm and held onto her cow Blackie to win her second straight junior showman championship belt buckle.

Friday was the culmination of 10 months of work, as FFA and 4-Hers showed their market steers in the newly constructed arena at the Routt County Fairgrounds.

As judge Judi Barbaui from Colorado State University was wrapping up the last and youngest group of 4-H beef showers, she said the junior group, ages 8 to 11, was her favorite because the youngsters work so hard and still have fun.

Friday's group of junior showers was no exception. A few steers got loose and took short jaunts around the arena.

And as some 4-Hers were chasing down their animals, others tried hard to make sure their steers' feet were set evenly apart and the animals' heads held high all while keeping a watchful eye on the judge.

And as Rossi will share, the real secret is smiling.

"This year you really had to smile. You had to know stuff about the animal. You had to have (the steer) set up and its head up," she said.

For those whose steers were a little frisky, Barbaui reassured the competitors she understood. On her first beef-showing experience, she told the audience her larger-than-average steer charged the judge.

Before Joe Long took third place in the junior showmanship competition, he sat on his show box making sure his steer Midnight did not lay down and get dirty. Friday was a busy day for the 10-year-old, who also showed pigs that morning. He faces another strenuous day as he auctions off his animals tonight.

Long has a ritual every day as he says goodbye to his animals. He wakes up early in the morning, feeds them and stays with them until they are gone.

"I like to get the money, but it's going to be sad when I get rid of my steer," Long said.

As he sat on the box and waited for the junior showmanship class to begin, Long and fellow 4-Her Zach Beckwith speculated which animals had the best chances of winning.

"You always want your steer to weigh around 1,250 pounds. He'll most likely win it then," Beckwith said.

The two boys rattled off the names of the owners whose steers looked like they had a shot at taking home the purple rosette ribbon that represents the Grand Champion market steer.

Last year was a memorable one for the Routt County 4-H beef circle as Janey Montieth took Grand Champion and broke the Booco family's long dynasty of champions.

Even as a rather young 4-Her, Long remembers it.

"They had been undefeated for so many years," he said.

Montieth added another silver belt buckle to her long collection Friday when she took top honors in the Senior Showmanship category.

Even though Montieth said there has been just one year where she has not taken a first or second in the showmanship category, she still wears the first belt buckle she ever won.

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