After months of toiling in dusty barns and hot kitchens, 4-H members bid the Johnson County Fair a bittersweet goodbye Saturday as they sold off prized livestock and award-winning brownies.
By DAWN BORMANN
The Kansas City Star
Several yards away from the sale ring, Aubrey Hamilton tuned out the constant buzz of auctioneers.
Instead, the 11-year-old Spring Hill girl leaned against her brothers steer, Shotgun, and gently rubbed his head to say goodbye before he took his turn in the auction ring.
I didnt know Id get this attached to the calves, she said, making a sad face.
Relishing the attention, Shotgun turned his head so Aubrey could rub his neck.
The fair sale largely considered the unofficial closing ceremony of county fairs is never easy, veteran fairgoers said. But its yet another lesson of life on the farm.
The sale provides a way for the 4-H members to earn money directly for their work.
They work all year to get to this point, said Johnson County Fair board president Shelly Harrison.
The members pay hundreds of dollars for feed, and that doesnt include an animals purchase price, she said.
Livestock projects are not cheap, she said.
Dozens of business owners came out Saturday to pay top dollar for sheep, goats, beef cattle and more. Businesses often pay inflated prices to reward the students. During the sale, auctioneers make a point to say where students are going to college and what theyll study. Last year a plate of cinnamon rolls brought $350, Harrison said.
Steve and Janis Davis, who own Davis Machine Tool Group in Olathe, spent a few thousand dollars Saturday at the sale. Hes repaying the favor after businesses paid top dollar for his childrens projects many years ago.
It goes to good kids, Steve Davis said. We just try to help as many kids as we can.
Back in the barns, many 4-H members like Aubrey were keenly aware that their animals were headed to market. But no one pretends its easy to say goodbye.
Aubreys father, Devin Hamilton, remembers that same feeling as a child. He cried his eyes out when his first entry sold.
My dad took me and we walked around the fairgrounds, he said.
The same story played out in several pens Saturday. Jennifer Wuelzer was stoic as she walked her goat, Brutus, around the sale ring. He brought $225 money that she can use for college or livestock feed. But Wuelzer could barely hear the price. Tears formed in her eyes the minute she stepped outside the spotlight.
I thought I was going to be fine, the Olathe North senior said, wiping her eyes.
But its not the end of her livestock work, she said, pointing to another pen where her goat, Bliss, was resting. He will never be sold, she said firmly.
That is my baby.
To reach Dawn Bormann, call 816-234-7704 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.