A monster of a sale: Stromberger brings top hog honors home to Colorado
The crowd at the National Western Stock Show Junior Market Livestock Sale cheered when Alli Stromberger made her way into the ring with her Grand Champion Market Hog, Monster. Stromberger, 15, from Iliff, Colo., is a sophomore at Caliche High School.
Though she couldn’t hear the cheers from Denver, Caliche was hosting the Haxtun Bulldogs basketball team and a crowd was gathered and cheering for her during the game as the sale streamed in the commons for the hometown girl.
John Korrey, who called the sale for the 17th year, had a catch in his voice as he told the crowd about his young neighbor. George Eidsness of Transwest Trucks opened the bid at $20,000, ultimately winning the bid for $100,000 and commenting how special it was to support a young woman from northeastern Colorado.
“That was the most fun I’ve had in a long time,” Korrey said. “We had some local kids and also, the buyers are generous. They don’t have to be sitting there doing that, but they are. It’s advertisement, sure, but it’s more than that. They care about the kids and the scholarships, and the National Western.”
Stromberger grew up in a livestock showing family with her grandfather, dad, and uncle all showing cattle and lambs. Her older sister, Brooke, now 19 and a student at Iowa State University, hit showing age and began showing pigs. The barn was transformed into a pig barn and the family gradually began competing in larger shows. Once Alli was old enough to begin showing, the family was accustomed to making the rounds from county fair, state fair, Aksarben, the Kansas City Royal, the NWSS, and the Arizona National Livestock Show. It was her sister, she said, who started the family showing pigs and lit the fire in her to follow her sister’s lead. The youngest sister, Bailey, 9, began showing this year, as well, something she’s been waiting for what seems like a lifetime to do.
Stromberger was coming into the winter show season off a win at Aksarben in Nebraska, ready to face the challenges of feeding and exercising hogs in cold weather. The family didn’t make the usual trip to Phoenix, electing to concentrate on the pigs for Denver. As opposed to the summertime, her winter schedule crams school, basketball practice, homework, and barn chores into a short and cold day. She also manages her daily schedule, be it at school or in the show ring, to control Type 1 diabetes. Diagnosed at age 5, Stromberger has an insulin pump and a monitor on the back of her arm that gives frequent readings.
Managing diabetes on show day can be difficult, her mom, Jonna, said. Nerves, adrenaline, and the time required to prepare the hogs for the ring have to be balanced with snacks and monitoring her levels. At the National Western, a nervous Alli was struggling with her blood sugar levels before the grand drive but she and Jonna were able to level it so she didn’t miss what has proven to be a big moment.
Her love for showing pigs, she said, is the reward for the investment in time. Selling her champion hog and setting a new National Western record also helps. Much like her other livestock exhibiting peers, Stromberger is investing a portion of her proceeds in her education savings, and some back into her show career in the form of feed, supplies and more pigs.
Stromberger said she has known John Korrey her entire life and was so pleased to have him selling her pig in the Junior Market Livestock Sale. With the exception of Aksarben, Korrey has been the one to sell every one of Stromberger’s show pigs at auction, making it more special for the family. Korrey said he donates his time to a number of junior market sales, one way he can give back to the agriculture community.
Giving back to the agriculture community is also one of the reasons 9 News’ Kathy Sabine is dedicated to the event. Sabine, who hails from an ag background in California, has been the constant on-air host as long as the event has been televised. The televised portion of the auction — Sabine called it the fastest 30 minutes on television — was, again, the highest ranked show in that time slot across the markets.
“I think it’s so neat that a Colorado girl made it to the top prize and the crowd really took her under their wing because she is a great girl, they’re a great family, and she’s from Colorado,” Sabine said. “She’s pretty special.”
Sabine said she loves hearing small town stories like Alli’s and she’s excited that other young girls have her and her sister to look up to and to model what is possible.
Returning to Illiff, the family is trying to catch up on laundry and homework but is still enjoying the win. Jonna said cheerleaders and congratulations have met the family at church, the local restaurant and around town.
“All of the positive comments have meant so much to us,” Jonna said. “We’ve always said you’re going to lose more often that you win, and you need to be a humble winner and a humble loser. We’re at a loss for words. We never expected this but when Brooke started showing, we thought it would be so cool to win stock show and be on 9 News with Kathy Sabine.”
In the midst of winning Denver and all that comes with it, Jonna said she reminded her girls that they’re now in the position of setting a positive example for the little boys and girls watching hoping they might one day do the same.
“Stick with it,” she said. “You’re going to lose a lot, but the wins are important and this one is going to hold a special place for a long time.”
For now, the sisters’ show barn is empty for a month but soon, the hunt for the next banner winners will begin and the barn will come alive with pigs and potential. ❖
— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 392-4410.