Check the Indiana Beef Cattle Association's Website if you want to discover how to find out who won the big awards at the Beef Congress that concluded yesterday. If you want to know what you really missed if you didn't attend, read on.
I've tried to figure out what made this experiment- a cattle show for kids with young claves in the middle of winter- such a hit. Why do 1,500 head of cattle show up, shown by some 1,000 kids? Why do parents miss work and maybe even get kids out of school early to drive one, two, three, maybe even four hours in a pickup truck, in the middle of December, sometimes on slick roads, to spend the weekend in a cold, drafty building at the Indiana State Fairgrounds- the West Pavilion, known as the Cattle Barn for those over 40 years old.
I volunteered a day up there last year, and again this year, supervising FFA members as they spread wood chips. Or at least I tried to supervise them. I got a 'rake' blister on one hand. That's just because I'm soft sitting here writing every day, not because I pushed the rake that hard.
I also went back to see some of the show. Talking to folk both days, it began to dawn on me what the attraction might be. It's a happening. It's not just a cattle show- it's an event at a very special time of the year when people aren't dog-tired from dragging themselves and animals to all kinds of shows. It's the start of a new 4-H year, showing a new calf- the one they'll show next summer, for many. And as Steve Nichols, the former Carroll County agent and former hog producer once told me, "You always think you've picked the best one in the spring. Usually it doesn't work out that way at the shows. But next spring, you do the same thing all over again- hope springs eternal."
It's also the people you get to see. If you're a regular attendee, maybe you only see them once a year- at that very show. Maybe they're from the other end of the state. You get to swap stories about their year, about the crops you raised, about children and grandchildren.
Christmas looms ahead and that adds to the excitement. The young showmen are almost giddy, knowing there's only two weeks of school left before Christmas. After all, most of them have been in school since they showed their last animal, maybe in the same building at the Indiana State fair.
Bit it all comes back to one thing- it's a Hoosier happening. Families competing and working together, eating meals with their neighbors in the aisle, probably good sloppy-joe or pulled pork made at home and kept warm in a crock pot. It's distinctly Hoosier, and it's fun.
It's also a labor of love for the some 25 volunteer board members who pull it off every year and for the countless other volunteers who help out during the show. It's a chance to forget about home and your everyday troubles, if only for a weekend.
Yes, if you missed the Beef Congress, you missed much more than a cattle show. You missed a Hoosier happening. There's one consolation, however. In just 363 days, it will be back again! It's almost like counting down until Christmas!