Competing at the National Western Stock Show is a dream come true for many young showmen. The historic venue showcases an area where livestock showmen have competed for more than 100 years, and young people marvel at the opportunity.
For many students from Colorado, this dream came true this year. They traveled from all over the state to compete at one of the oldest shows in the country.
One of those students was Vada Vickland, a 13-year-old hog showman from Longmont, Colo. A member of the Calico and Jeans 4-H club, Vickland has been showing since she was eight, and this was her third year exhibiting at the NWSS.
Vickland exhibited the Grand Champion Heavyweight Crossbred Swine, which was also the overall Reserve Grand Champion Crossbred.
“It meant a lot to me because that’s the best my family has ever done at NWSS,” she said.
Vickland bought the hog, which she named Houdini, when he was just 45 pounds, and then showed him at 280 pounds. “Vada’s champion heavy weight crossbred barrow hog was calico in color and quite flashy looking. Vada picked him out for his color and sparky personality,” said Patty Vickland, Vada’s mother.
She continued, “Houdini was pretty special and it was very difficult emotionally for her to load him up on the trailer after the NWSS champion sale. Vada was the only child from Colorado who was fortunate enough to win a high enough placing [in hogs] for the Sale of Champions this year.”
Showing a pig at the stockshow isn’t as easy as just filling out the entry form. The students are involved in a lottery system, and they are randomly chosen because there are more kids who want to compete then there is room.
“Once selected, you can begin to look and purchase your pigs or hand select them if you raise them. Then the kids are responsible for caring for their pigs which includes feeding, watering, exercising and pen cleaning,” said Patty Vickland.
She enjoys watching her children compete, and finding success. “As a parent, I take great pride in watching my kids complete a livestock project from start to finish. Animal care teaches them responsibility and the cycle of life. My kids often have to choose between participating at the NWSS, or being on a sports team given the time commitment. Having a champion hog at the NWSS is a once in a lifetime type of experience, given the intense level of competition with quality hogs and showman from all around the country. I am very blessed,” she said.
Vada is one of six children, and is a twin. The entire family has grown up in 4-H, and showed livestock. She is a seventh grader at St. Johns the Baptist Catholic School, and juggles her time with her livestock around school.
In addition to showing hogs, the Vicklands also raise show cattle on 180 acres in rural Boulder County. “Vada is involved in the family livestock business, Vickland Show Cattle. We breed, raise, sell and show breeding heifers and club steers,” said Patty Vickland.
Another student who found success and made the sale at the NWSS was Lauren Frink of Eaton, Colo. Frink exhibited the second place black face lamb in her class. “I was kind of scared because I had never done it before. I didn’t really want to get rid of him, but otherwise it was fun. The money goes into a fund for that weekend, and to buy lambs for next year, and some of it goes to a college fund,” she said.
The lamb that she showed was one that their family had raised. Named Reeces, he was one the family thought would do well. “I thought he was pretty good. He was the best lamb that we had to choose from. We usually keep a handful for stock show, and then narrow them down as we get closer. He was the best,” she said.
Frink worked with her lamb every day, walking him on the treadmill or outside if the weather was nice. “It’s different raising one for NWSS because it’s colder and you are in school, so you don’t have as much time,” Frink said.
She enjoys the NWSS because of the experience that it gives her. “It’s a good experience, and every year I try to do better. There are different lambs, and it’s a different experience showing them. It’s different because there are more people to compete against, and it’s a lot tougher because there are a lot of good lambs,” she explained.
Her father Mike Frink, who was there to support her, was excited for his daughter. “You always like to see your kids have success, and to taste what it’s like to do well and to be gracious winners. There is a lot of time and effort to get it there. It’s a culmination of everything, and it’s exciting to see it come to fruition. It’s pretty exciting time when you achieve the goals that you have been working towards all fall,” he said.
The top eight champion animals total sales exceeded last year’s total by $4,500. The highest bids went to the Grand Champion Steer, which sold for $100,000 and the Grand Champion Hog, which sold for $47,500, nearly doubling last year’s bid.
The money invested supports the youth that raised the animal as they plan for their future needs for their college educations. In addition, a portion of the proceeds support the National Western Scholarship Trust, which funds scholarships in agriculture and rural medicine at colleges throughout Colorado and Wyoming. Last year, 74 students received funds to aid their education. ❖