Showtime: Youth, animals take stage at 4-H event
By William F. West
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
When it comes to showing animals at the annual Albemarle Area 4-H Livestock Show and Sale, Camryn Lawrence is about as close as it comes to a seasoned veteran.
Lawrence, who lives in Weeksville, says she’s been attending the annual show, held at the 4-H Livestock Arena in Elizabeth City, for about a dozen years. And she recalls the first animal she ever showed in the arena: a baby lamb named Little Bit.
Now 16, Lawrence is showing a much larger animal this year: a year-and-a-half-old, 1,200-pound steer named Versace. And, yes, for those wondering: Lawrence's male bovine is named in honor of the late Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace.
Lawrence is one of about 190 young people from Pasquotank, Camden, Currituck, Perquimans and Gates counties participating in this year’s Albemarle Area 4-H Livestock Show, the 73rd time it’s been held.
Some 230 animals are expected to be shown during the two-day event. The show began Tuesday morning with showings and judging of lambs and goats; it continues today with showings and judging of hogs and steers, followed by the sale of the animals.
Asked what it takes to handle a massive creature like Versace, Lawrence answered with a smile: "A lot."
She said Versace consumes some 45 pounds of high-quality feed a day and he also grazes on her family’s farm.
"He has full range of hay and grass," Lawrence said.
Even though Versace is pretty big, Lawrence said he's actually "a big baby" in his disposition. In fact, she’s grown rather attached to him.
"I've spent a lot of time working with him, washing him. And we've become a really good team, I think," she said.
Even though she’s been raising animals for the annual show and sale for years now, Lawrence said she still learns a lot from the experience.
"It teaches you a lot of responsibilities, a lot of things that you can't learn in school,” she said. “It teaches you responsibility because you do have to get up every morning before school and go take care of your animal."
Over in another part of the arena, Summer Forbes of Shiloh was getting her animals ready for this year’s show. Forbes, 12, has no fewer than nine entries in the show: three lambs, three goats and three hogs.
Forbes, who’s been showing animals at the arena the past four years, said she gets a lot out of the experience.
"It's a lot of fun," she said. "We have a lot of property and area to keep them."
Not far away, Wil Haines, 15, was caring for his male lamb, Fluff.
Haines, who’s been attending the show since he was 6, said the experience of raising animals has also taught him a lot about taking responsibility.
"You learn a lot of skills about raising livestock – and it can help you with time management,” he said.
Asked about Fluff's disposition, Haines said, "This one has been a pain" compared to other young sheep he’s raised.
"He doesn't like to walk for some reason. I have to drag him a lot," he said.
Young people aren't the only ones returning year after year for the livestock show and sale.
Amanda Winslow, 38, of Belvidere, has been attending the show since she was bringing animals herself to compete. On Tuesday, she and husband Matt were in attendance in support of their 9-year-old son, Caden, who’s showing a 255-pound hog named Socks.
"He came with probably three-inch hair," Amanda said of Socks as Matt was neatly trimming Socks’ locks.
Amanda said she gets a lot of satisfaction attending the show and sale, and is particularly pleased that a lot of young people still participate. She noted that a lot of their friends don’t understand where their food comes from.
"I want my kids to be raised understanding that this is bacon, this is your pork chop and for the other animals, that's where your hamburgers come from," she said.
Pasquotank Extension 4-H Agent Mason Lawrence, no relation to Camryn Lawrence, said youth participation in this year’s show, while not a record, “is a high number.”