10/02/11 — For the Lintons, goat showing is a family affair

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For the Lintons, goat showing is a family affair

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on October 2, 2011 1:50 AM

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Marisa Linton, left, holds her award in showmanship as she leads her goat, followed by the other exhibitors, out of the ring during the Open Junior Meat Goat Show at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair. Showing goats is a family activity for the Linton's.

As the rain poured down on the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair Friday night, Suzy Linton was sitting on the front row of the Livestock Arena while organizers scrambled to bring the Open Junior Meat Goat Show inside.

Fairgoers had already streamed out of the gates due to the storm, but Mrs. Linton could sit calmly as the raindrops drummed on the roof of the arena knowing her family was safe and dry.

That's because for nearly a decade if there was a livestock showmanship exhibition scheduled in eastern North Carolina, there was a good chance her family was nearby.

Mrs. Linton was handling announcements at the goat show, while her husband, A.J., worked as the ringmaster. Their daughter, Marisa, 18, and 15-year-old son, Alec, had already shown their goats, and while Isaac, 6, and Gideon, 5, will show livestock at the N.C. State Fair later this fall, they were not competing at the Wayne Regional Fair.

Livestock showing is a family affair for most competitors, as generations united by the craft turn out year after year for the competitions across the circuit.

For the Lintons, it all began with A.J., who was raised on a farm though he never participated in showmanship competitions. A 4-H event led Ms. Linton to try it out at age 8, and it's been a fixture in their lives ever since.

Linton championed the skills his children have gained since beginning their careers in livestock showmanship, from responsibility and self-confidence to decision-making abilities, like choosing to shear a goat just before a competition.

"It was the ugliest goat I've ever seen in my life," Marisa's father said, remembering of the goat she entered into that contest. "But it was her decision ... and it won."

Avery Faulkner, 18, whose goat won first place in senior showmanship, said after more than a decade of showing, the competitors themselves develop a closeness grown from their common bond in raising and showing livestock.

"We look out for one another," he said of he and his fellow competitors, especially those who, like him, make their home in Wayne County.

He has aged alongside Marisa, Amanda Wheaton and others, he said, and they have built natural friendships through shared experiences.

And although he will age out after this year's state fair, he'll continue to work with livestock and will never forget the bonds he has forged in the dirt arenas he's frequented for 11 years. Still, he said, it wouldn't hurt to win a couple more times.

"It's not the greatest thing with it coming to an end, but if you can go out on top, it's not so bad" Faulkner said.