Eaton’s Alyssa DePorter hopes to add National Western grand championship to long list of showing accomplishments
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Travis DePorter pointed to a picture on the wall of his office, hanging beneath banners and bows from livestock shows across the country.
In the photo, his daughter Alyssa DePorter is smiling with her grand champion lamb at the 2015 Colorado State Fair.
“You remember that day?” he asked her.
Alyssa and her lamb, Lambo, were supposed to march in the parade of champions, called the Grand Drive, in just a few minutes, but she got a nosebleed. Her nose swelled, so she started crying hysterically, scared that she would miss the moment she’d worked so hard to accomplish.
Dozens of tissues later, she borrowed a clean shirt and stepped into the arena with Lambo, praying the cotton in her nose would stop the bleeding. When the judge shook her hand, she started crying again. This time, it was out of happiness.
Alyssa smiled sheepishly. She’s supposed to be a veteran. She’s 17 and has competed at livestock shows for nine years. But she still gets nervous now and then, like for this year’s National Western Stock Show, where she will show two steers, two lambs and two pigs in the market shows, as well as some prospect heifers and steers.
Her dad looked over at her proudly. He said it’s one of the best looking sets of animals she’s ever brought to a show, though she has won dozens of awards at other competitions, and she has worked hard. The DePorter family’s operation east of Eaton has always hinged on the kids working hard.
DePorter works a full-time job for an oil and gas company to fund the family’s cattle, sheep and pig ranch. He said as long as the kids are interested in the animals and willing to work at it, he’d keep it up. Alyssa’s never let him think about slowing down production. Even though her younger brother, 16-year-old Tayte, lost interest in showing, she only got more enthusiastic about livestock as she grew up.
Whether DePorter and his wife, Toni, expected it or not, the whole family fell in love with the show life, and the people they met all around the country in livestock barns. It’s all about the support of the ag community, DePorter said. Without that, they never would’ve been successful.
The family, which started with show pigs, now has about 55 head of cattle.
In a few years, some little feet will patter in Alyssa’s bootprints into the show ring too. Her little sisters, Tatum and Tegan, are already ranch girls at heart. The older of the two, 3-year-old Tatum, practices for her future 4-H career by haltering calves. She already knows she wants her first project to be with a red one, DePorter said.
Alyssa hopes one of the animals she takes to the stock show, such as the massive 1,675-pound steer Dunk It, will be what she needs to bring home a grand champion banner, something she’s never won at National Western.
Even though she hasn’t seen that top honor in Denver yet, Alyssa is no stranger to it. At the Weld County Fair, Alyssa has had a grand champion animal in all four market categories — goats, sheep, pigs and steers. She set that goal for herself when she was only 9.
Now, she has two chances left to do bring home a banner from National Western. When she turns 19, she won’t be eligible to show anymore.
“It’s getting bittersweet,” she said.
Even when she takes the halter off the last animal at the last show, though, Alyssa’s life in livestock won’t be over. She still has too much love for the ranching game, she said.
A junior at Platte Valley High School, Alyssa said she isn’t sure what she wants to do after graduation. She knows college is next, and her winnings from livestock shows have helped set up a nice fund for her studies. But she’s not sure where she wants to go. She’s thinking about studying animal sciences, especially after doing her big FFA project on cattle production, but she’s not sure yet.
She does know one thing. However she gets there, she wants to do more than just be interested enough to keep her dad running the farm.
As always, she wants to be the one holding the halter. To see a full schedule of National Western Stock Show events, go to http://www.thefencepost.com. ❖