Steamboat Springs Mousse flew into the air around Tia Rozell as she prepared her market steer for his final walk around the ring. She was intent and focused as she hurriedly sprayed adhesive into his fur like hairspray and combed it into styled swirls.
Minutes earlier, she had taken off her 2012 Routt County Fair queen sash and crown after she passed on the honor to the 2013 queen.
“It’s a big honor,” Rozell said about serving as the queen for the 2011 and 2012 fairs, handing out ribbons and representing Routt County 4-H in the community. “I always looked up to the fair queens, so it was cool to be one.”
She said she wants to fit steers for high-level shows as a profession — like a stylist for cattle at events like the National Western Stock Show. The Routt County 4-H program is helping her get there.
“I don’t do sports,” she said. “This is my sport, this is what I do.”
Her steer, Lightning McQueen, was one of about 130 animals sold at the 2012 Junior Livestock sale held Saturday evening at the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden. It was the finale of a long year of hard work on the part of children ranging from elementary school to high school seniors.
Age was no matter for Emmitt Meyring, 9, who raised the Grand Champion market steer in his first year showing livestock.
In the ring, his steer sold for $10,000 to Round Mountain Ranch, where Emmitt’s family works.
Emmitt said that he might take a few hundred dollars for spending money but that most of it will go into his college fund. He also plans to donate $1,000 to Routt County 4-H and $1,000 to the Routt County Livestock Judging Team.
“I’m a livestock judger, and we don’t have very good stuff,” he explained. “And I really like 4-H and want to keep it going.”
Last year’s Grand Champion steer sold for $5,500. Last year’s Reserve Grand Champion steer went for $4,750, while this year’s Reserve Grand Champion, Sam Shaffer’s Big Red, went for $5,200.
In 2011, the steers sold for an average of $2,500. This year, the average price for steer was $3,215.
Sam’s father Doug Shaffer said if it weren’t for the community businesses and sponsors stepping up to support the 4-H'ers, the Junior Livestock Sale would never be possible and his children would be missing out on irreplaceable lessons.
Shaffer said his children have both had checkbooks since they were 8 years old and buy all their own feed for their animals, which have to be cared for every day.
“It teaches them all kinds of responsibility,” he said.
As responsible as the young 4-H’ers are, sentimentality is part of raising livestock, too.
Emmitt’s cousin Cash, 9, said he never wanted to raise anything but pigs because “pigs are just the cutest animals ever.”
“I love them,” he said about Night and Emmitt (a pink pig named for his cousin). “I’m always going to remember their personalities.”
Gracie Day also was in her first year, and she raised a steer named Cowboy for the C-shaped white splotch on his forehead.
“He’s like a big puppy dog,” she said. “We like to play tag. I’ll pet him for a little while, then he chases me around. And we have staring contests.”
Although she said she’s going to be sad to see him go, it’s all worth it.
“At least you get to be in the barn with them, win ribbons and have fun,” she said.
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com