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Changing the industry one animal at a time

Kitty Michelotti-Glaser
Fence Post Staff Reporter

How did you spend your weekend after the July 4th holiday? Use up those last few fireworks? Clean out the barbecue leftovers? Perhaps catch a movie? In Briggsdale, Colo., people flocked from as far away as Branson, Castle Rock, and Elbert, Colo., or even Pine Bluffs, Neb., for the third annual Briggsdale Classic.

Never heard of the Briggsdale Classic? It was created by a group of three men, Brian Allmer, Donald Johnston, and Larry Rodenburg. The event itself is a fund-raiser for the Citizen Washington Focus program in Briggsdale. But in actuality it does so much more. Aside from being a fund-raiser, the Briggsdale Classic is a memorial show for some of Briggsdale’s beloved who have passed on, it is an opportunity for kids from all over the state to get together and share secrets about raising animals, it is a practice run for county fair, and the list goes on.

If you look closely at the beautiful showmanship buckles that each of the champions earn, you will see some unique features. On every showmanship buckle from the Classic’s creation in 2003 up until this year the name “Harlene Allmer-Fiscus” appeared. Harlene was the older sister of founding member Brian Allmer. Active in 4-H and elected FFA Sweetheart, Harlene loved ranching, showing animals, and being active in her community. Although Harlene had lived in states ranging from Arizona up to Alaska, her heart never left Briggsdale. After her death at the age of 40, her ashes were spread on the family farm in Briggsdale. The Briggsdale Classic Committee voted unanimously to have her name put on all the showmanship buckles. That was until this year.

This past fall the Briggsdale community lost another one-of-a-kind community member. Ed Endreson was the beef chairman for the Briggsdale Classic, as well as a father of 4-H’ers and FFA’ers, loving husband, and well respected leader in Briggsdale. Again the Briggsdale Classic Committee voted, and Ed’s name was placed on the beef showmanship buckles. This was the first year for his name to appear on the buckles, and it will remain there for future Classics to come. This year a special buckle was presented to the Endreson Family at the Briggsdale Classic. You would’ve been hard pressed to find a dry eye around the ring during that part of the day. Ed’s years of love, loyalty and dedication made that buckle shine a little brighter than all the rest. While he is sorely missed by all who knew him, they all know he was smiling down on them during the Classic, and will be for years to come.

The Briggsdale Classic gives its share of nods to the past, but it also concentrates very hard on the future. Kids as young as 4 and as old as 18 were in the ring showing their animals. The youngest kids, or Pee Wees, showed bucket calves, goats and sheep. Sometimes older siblings were there just in case those little hands couldn’t quite keep control of the sheep that weighed twice what they did. Sometimes, when siblings weren’t available, the show ring was turned into a rodeo as a goat pulled its lead out of someone’s hand, or a sheep jumped out of their little grip. But in true Briggsdale style, someone was always there to rein in the runaway, and help the Pee Wee gather their animal, and their composure back.

My favorite “rodeo” of the day was when junior showman Mordikye Miller, the smallest showman in the sheep ring, found her sheep to be literally a little jumpy.

No matter how hard that sheep tried to jump out of the little girl’s grip, she held on. Mordikye was yanked off her feet, dragged through the sawdust and across the ring, but she never let go! When her sheep stopped, she brushed herself off, brought the sheep back to its place in line, and continued to show as if nothing had happened. To be honest, I’m not sure her smile ever left her face, and I don’t think she broke eye contact with the judge, even while being dragged! The heart inside Mordikye is a big one, and I look forward to seeing what she can do in years to come.

This year’s Briggsdale Classic boasted the largest Sheep and goat show in the Classic’s history. Over 64 lambs and 135 goats were shown. While the beef show numbers were down slightly, Aaron Volosin, the beef judge, said it best; “You may not necessarily have a lot of numbers, but the quality says a lot more. While the numbers are down, the overall quality of animals has improved.”

After all, that is why the Classic was created, and that is what it strives to do. “We’d like to bring the production sector a little closer to the show ring,” said Brian Allmer.

The Briggsdale Classic has even been copied in Arizona. Brian got a call from someone outside of Tucson, Ariz., who had heard of the Briggsdale Classic, and wanted to know how to get one started. “One person can make a difference,” said Brian. “Then it becomes a group of people, and a group can make a huge difference.” And that is what the Briggsdale Classic is doing.

Judges came from Fort Collins, and Morgan County, Colo. Aaron Volosin, the beef judge, is a member of the CSU livestock judging team. Goat and sheep judge Marlin Eisenach is the Morgan County Cooperative Extension livestock agent.

Marlin loves working with kids, and was happy to spend his time at the Briggsdale Classic. “Briggsdale is a great area and I can’t think of a better way to donate a day than with these kids,” he said. “We’ve seen some of the top animals in the county today,” he added. Marlin has judged many shows in his day, and he said that his goal for the Briggsdale Classic was that each kid would leave knowing a little bit more about their animal, showmanship, and their own skills, than when they arrived.

Between the committee, the judges, contestants, parents, and animals, the Briggsdale classic is a huge joint effort. A huge part of this effort is the sponsors. Committee members, kids, and parents go out and “beat the streets” for sponsors.

Lillian Allmer, mother of Harlene and Brian, said she just “walked into one company, told the owner what the Briggsdale Classic was all about, and walked out with a check!” She said that “people are very willing to sponsor an event like this, you just have to find them.” The Briggsdale Classic is always looking for sponsors. Some folks sponsor a belt buckle, others donate money towards the jackpot prizes, and others donate items for the silent auction held during the show.

The show itself is a great thing to watch. It’s a great opportunity for the kids to bring their project animal into a show ring before their county fair. The contestants learn some of the questions they may be asked, what they can do to improve their showmanship, and what a judge will look for in the completeness of their animal. I overheard one parent saying to his bucket calf kid, “See, now you know how much you have to work with her (the calf) before Fair.”

The Briggsdale Classic gives its participants a chance to practice before the big Fair. Because there are still about 20 days until Fair they can put finishing touches on their animals and their showmanship. They also get up close and personal with judges so they have a chance to learn a judge’s preferences of standing with their animal, eye contact, and more. I noticed each Champion of each species in each class had a smile from ear to ear from the time he or she entered the ring, to the time they left. Smiles are a must in the show ring if contestants want to win.

Although, with an envelope of cash and a new buckle in hand, that smile did tend to last beyond the show ring too!

The Briggsdale Classic is a test-run for Fair, but it’s more. “Everyone leaves here a winner,” says Brian Allmer. This year the Classic was able to give out $1,260 worth in prizes and over $2,400 in cash to its winners. I’ve often heard animal projects described as a year-long job for which kids only get paid once a year. The Briggsdale Classic brings that number up to twice a year. Sometimes there was enough money to go around that first place through six each received money in their class! Brian hopes to increase that for next year.

The Briggsdale Classic is a great way to spend some time commemorating some great people, brushing up for Fair, improving the meat industry, and having a lot of fun. Even if you don’t have a school-aged kid who likes to show, you can still get involved. What a better way to spend a weekend? To get involved, donate, participate or find out more, please visit http://www.BriggsdaleClassic.com.


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