Youth and their families who enjoy the camaraderie and competition of swine shows have a new option to consider.
For the first time this year, a circuit of sanctioned shows known as the Minnesota Youth Swine Series was held across the state. The series came about after a group of swine supporters and friends decided to organize a new venue for youth development through swine projects. After numerous brainstorming sessions, MYSS was born, says Linette Freking, one of MYSS’ founders and a board director.
“The show series has given the youth of Minnesota the opportunity to show more throughout the summer, and to continue to develop showmanship skills,” Freking says.
More than 175 youth participated in 13 shows during 2021.
MYSS organizers say the series complements 4-H and FFA swine programs by broadening show experiences. In MYSS, there are no animal limits on the number of head per exhibitor, and membership is open to a wider range of youth, from ages 5 to 21. At each show, exhibitors earn points that accumulate throughout the season. Points are awarded per show in class placings, as well as in breed and overall winner categories and in showmanship classes. At the end of the show season, personalized awards are given to top individuals in each category.
“The special camaraderie that exists among youth from across the state who share a passion for showing livestock is incredible,” Freking adds. “It is a joy to watch lifelong friendships develop as a result of this series.”
The final swine show for MYSS in 2021 was the 48th annual Polka Town Classic, held Aug. 1 at the Brown County Fairgrounds in New Ulm. Dozens of volunteers helped set up for the daylong event. More than 70 youth participated, showing 180 pigs.
Organizers of the Classic decided to merge with MYSS this year. In doing so, MYSS had a special showmanship component in memory of Dan Hacker, an original exhibitor of the Polka Town Classic and show the organizer.
Heather Hacker Hammer, Dan’s daughter, said the show used to be held in March but was moved to the summer for MYSS.
“The Polka Town hog show was started to provide animal judging opportunities for kids,” Hammer says. “My dad was all about the education of youth.” Half of the original shows were judging contests, where youth brought pigs and learned how to rank them, giving oral reasons for their placings, she says.
One of the show parents at the New Ulm show, M.K. Franz of Bingham Lake, noted the importance of exposing youth to more show opportunities, such as the MYSS.
“This is a good way to raise kids,” she says. “It teaches them hard work and drive. Plus, it is cool that it is creating new young swine breeders. This helps keep kids in agriculture.”
Another parent, Darcy Dahna of Mountain Lake, also appreciates the impact the show circuit has on youth. Another plus? Parent involvement.
“We caravan to shows and pick up everyone along the way,” she says, adding that it has been nice to get to know other parents with youth into swine.
Interested in learning more? Visit minnesotayouthswineseries.com. Next year’s MYSS season begins in May 2022.