SHOWTIME: Handlers take ring in contest

Published 10:54 pm Saturday, July 18, 2009

ROME TOWNSHIP — How many teeth does a chicken have? Junior Showman of Showmen contestants at the Lawrence County Junior Fair Friday had to know the correct answer to that question (and a lot more). More on poultry dentistry in a moment.

The annual Showman of Showmen competition tested students’ knowledge on six animals: pigs, goats, lambs, steers, rabbits and chickens and their ability to properly handle and show each animal.

In the end, Justin Payne walked away with the senior division honors. Jillian Salyers took home the junior division title.

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Jenna Meeks, judge for the senior division competition, said she was looking for “someone who is knowledgeable about each species and has a presence with each animal, someone who can take over a show ring.”

She said the eight senior division contestants all “did a great job showing and obviously you guys have studied. I’m impressed with the information here.” She said the competition was a close call but in the end gave the edge to Payne, who said small animals posed a problem.

“I worked a little with rabbits and chickens but had no clue how to show them,” he said. “Lambs, I’ve showed them before. I got some help from Luke Taylor with the hogs.”

Payne’s father, David Payne, said he was impressed that the showmanship contestants helped each other, even though they were competing against one other.

Questions for the senior division students — those 14 and over— might have been tough, but those for the eight junior division contestants — kids aged 8-13 — dealt with the basics of animal care and handling.

“I wanted them to tell me how to match a pair of chickens to bring to the fair,” chicken judge Beth Barnett said. “And most of them could do it.”

Hog judge Jason Dial said he was also pleased with the junior division contestants.

“They did very well,” he said. “This is a good bunch of kids, they knew what they needed to know.”

Salyers said her secret to success was confidence.

“You’ve got to act like you know everything even if you don’t,” she said. “It’s a lot of study and a lot of hard work. I got help from family and friends. It’s a long process but it’s worth it.”

Now back to those chickens: Barnett said she asked one humorous question that hopefully would be both funny and basic to those who know even a little bit about poultry.

“I asked them, ‘how many teeth does a chicken have?’” she grinned. Chickens don’t have any teeth. But one contestant seemed stumped at first. “He just looked at me and said ‘I’ve never seen a chicken with teeth.’”