09/26/08 — Storm doesn't stop the goats

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Storm doesn't stop the goats

By Renee Carey
Published in News on September 26, 2008 1:40 PM

Marisa Linton of Grantham had been in the ring before -- many times.


News-Argus/Mitch Loeber

Marisa Linton, left, is interviewed by judge John Tart III during the senior showmanship portion of the junior meat goat show held at the Wayne County Regional Agricultural Fair Thursday.

So while the 15-year-old was "a little" nervous when she took her place in the senior showmanship finals of the Junior Meat Goat Show at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair Thursday night, she confidently moved her goat, Lantanna, into place, keeping her eyes on judge John Tart III.

She adjusted the goat's legs and held it steady as Tart made his way up and down the line, asking the contestants questions and directing them to take hold of another competitor's animal.

After tense moments and much shifting, Tart stopped at Marisa's goat and asked her to tell him what she would change about it.

Marisa reached down and put her hands on the animal.

And that, Tart said, was enough to earn her the blue ribbon.

Marisa credited her experience in another area as the reason she knew what to do.

"I do a competition called livestock judging," she said.

But her quick thinking was the talk of the goat competition as younger competitors and their advisers and parents made note of the judge's comments -- and vowed to do the same when their turn came in the ring.

Here's how they finished:

Grand Champion: Joel Dahms, 10, Durham County

Reserve Champion: John Ronald Walton, 14, Edgecombe County

1st place Senior Showmanship: Marisa Linton, 14, Wayne County

1st place Junior Showmanship: Carmen Honeycutt, 13, Johnston County

1st place Novice Showmanship: Heather Snowden, 8, Pitt County

After seven years of competing, Marisa said showing is not as nerve-wracking as it once was -- but that doesn't mean that the blue ribbon came easy.

"It was a lot of work, getting ready," she said.

Keeping Lantanna in the right position was her primary focus, she said, adding that she was surprised when the judge pointed to her as the first-prize winner.

Lantanna seems to know when she is in the show ring, Marisa said.

"When she is in the pasture, she is wild," she said. "The minute you put her in the ring, she calms right down."

Cool and collected after her victory, she said experience has made the ring a less scary place.

It was much harder later, however, when her brother, Alec, took the ring for the junior showmanship competition.

She was more nervous for him than she was for herself, Marisa said.

"Last year, we competed against each other," she said. "It was hard. You want to win, but then again you don't ... because he is your brother."

Alec did not take home a top prize in the junior showmanship competition, but his sister was proud, nonetheless.

"I'd liked to have done a little better, but she did pretty good," Alec said about his goat, Lulu.

He added that the best part of showing is "getting to know your animal and getting to learn about it."

He and Marisa are partners of sorts -- taking care of 50 goats along with their parents, A.J. and Suzanne.

After her victory, Marisa spent some time talking with other competitors and helping to call the classes for the show, answering questions and helping anxious handlers.

Among those taking the ring was Amanda Wheaton, 12, of Dudley.

She and her goat Big Red were among the competitors for the Junior Showmanship crown.

In the end, she earned a second-place ribbon.

Keeping her goat focused was the biggest challenge, Amanda said.

"He just sets up by himself," she said. "I need to work on leading. He fidgets."

She said she likes goats because they are "just cute."

Big Red, she said, has a personality all his own -- and a rather unique voice.

"When he is really mad, he sounds like a little girl screaming at the top of her lungs," Amanda said.

As the novice showmanship competition began, little Cierra Bireley and her goat waited patiently by the gate for their flight to be called.

The 9-year-old talked softly to her charge, playing with his ears as she made designs in the dirt.

She wasn't nervous, she said.

Her goat originally went by the name of "Cross," but Cierra said she renamed the animal, herself, after a marking on his back.

"It looks like a cookie with a bite out of it," she said.

Hence then name -- Bitten Cookie.

After what seemed a long wait, Cierra's group was finally called.

All business now, she took her place among the contestants, confidently leading Bitten Cookie around the ring.

She is experienced, after all, having already been in many goat shows, she said.

In the end, she placed fifth -- just fine with her, earning a ribbon and sporting a smile.

And there were many children there with the same idea -- earning a green participation ribbon -- and a $5 prize -- enough to cause all sorts of excitement for the most inexperienced and youngest competitors.

Mary Dunn, 9, of Grantham was there, too, competing in the market competition with her goat, Runt -- named because of his position in the litter, the smallest.

Runt did not win, but he earned a ribbon in his division -- and a hug and a smile from his handler.

Why does she like the competition? "It's fun," she said.

Why goats? "They are easier and they are not as heavy," she said.

For others, the competition was another in a series of steps toward their future.

Avery Faulkner, a sophomore at Spring Creek High School, and grandson of Russell Vinson, has been showing goats for nine years.

He said he "had his usual butterflies" Thursday, but still managed to take home third place in the senior showmanship competition.

"Doing this shows me what I want to do with my future," he said, adding that he hopes to have a career in agriculture.