10/04/06 — Beauty and the ... beef

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Beauty and the ... beef

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 4, 2006 1:49 PM

Some were getting a blow-dry.

Others caught a quick trim and brushing.

In the moments before Tuesday's Open Junior Market Beef Heifer Show, the scene on the outskirts of the grandstand proved that walking home with the blue ribbon is just as much about the beauty as the beef, some said.

"It's like going to the beauty shop, but for cows," Karen Woodard of Princeton said.

Her daughter, 11-year- old Lauren, agreed.

"You want your cows to look good for market," she said. "We'll just have to wait and see how she does."

Lauren and her 13-year-old sister, Hanna, competed in last night's event.

As their father, Kenny, gave the family heifers a last-minute makeover, he made sure the girls were ready, too.

"If the judge asks you who the best out there is, what do you tell him?" Woodard asked his daughters.

The girls answered quickly.

"Me," they shouted in unison.

"That's right," their father replied. "When you're talking about showmanship, you never want to give any other answer than that."

On the other side of the ring, 17-year-old John Barnes was getting ready, too.

The Wilson County resident said he is fond of his heifer, Jean, and wants to make sure she looks her best.

"You think you can allow yourself to get fond of (heifers) more," John said. "With the steers, you try not to because you know they're going to go to slaughter. But she's just fine."

As he stood next to Jean, brushing her all the while, he talked about how she would stack up against the competition.

"In heifers, the main thing is structure," John said. "She's real fluffy. If you blow her hair and get it standing up like that, it makes her look that much bigger. And more muscle means more red meat."

The 11-year veteran didn't walk away with a win Tuesday. Still, coming to the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair is always a great experience.

"It's just another stop, but it's right nice out here," he said, turning to Jean and stroking her back. "We enjoy it, don't we?"

Other competitors, like 13-year-old Allyson Brake and 11-year-old Katherine Hassell, said their annual stop in Wayne County is a time to reunite with friends they have met in the ring through the years.

"It's like a big family reunion every weekend," Allyson said. "We're all buddies, but we're competing with each other for a big belt buckle."

Katherine is from Elizabeth City, a long trek to her friend's house in Wilson County. Still, competitions give the girls a chance to have some fun while they vie for the top prize.

Allyson said she hopes her "baby," Fire Fly, is ready.

"You're looking at my sole contender right here," she said. "I hope she does good."

And she should, Allyson said. After all, she gets the royal treatment back home.

"We walk her and wash her ... We just spoil her, really," she said. "She's my baby. She's sweet most of the time. I just hope she's sweet in front of the judge."

Fire Fly let out a groan.

"What do you want to say Fire Fly? Oh you want to say 'Hi,'" Allyson said.

Katherine laughed and said she talks to her heifer, too. Twenty-month-old Surprise is a socialite, she said.

"Sometimes she likes to go crazy in the ring, but I just keep my cool," she said. "I tell her, 'You're in big trouble when we get out of this ring.' She listens. She's just a big baby. She's been that way since the day she was born."

As the event came to an end and ribbons were handed out, some of the spectators were already focused on next year's contest -- especially 9-year-old Jenna Woodard.

Her two older sisters got to show Tuesday and she knows that at the 2007 fair, she will finally be old enough to join them. There's just something fun about showing heifers, she said.

Still, as she finishes out the circuit as a supporter, looking forward to next year is bittersweet, she added -- because it's not right now.

"It's still not fair," Jenna said.