In the rush of the end of summer, most of us find ourselves at some sort of fair or another. For Minnesotans, it usually means the State Fair - twelve days of fun that always end on labor day. During the first four days of the fair, you can find 4-H dairy project members filling the cattle barn. Each 4-H member is allowed to exhibit one animal, and this year that numbered at 508. The show is unique for its diverse offerings to 4-H'ers. Not only are registered animals welcome to be exhibited, grade and crossbred animals also have a ring at the show. This year show coordinators found the number of Jersey exhibitors to be only slightly more than the number of crossbred exhibitors and the number of grade Holstein exhibitors being only 20 less than those exhibiting registered Holsteins. While the purpose of exhibiting grade or crossbred cattle may be questioned by some, there is no doubt that this opportunity to exhibit in the show ring as a youth propels future involvement in the dairy industry.
When the show is over, purple ribbons may adorn cow stalls; however, dedicated dairy youth still have another opportunity for recognition. Started in 2009, the Minnesota 4-H Dairy showcase aims to recognize the involvement, dedication, and passion of Minnesota's dairy youth. Youth complete an online leadership portfolio prior to coming to the fair and earn points based on his or her project leadership, dairy-related activities, and community involvement. Bonus points are given to individuals receiving Champion and Reserve Champion honors in their respective breed classes and in showmanship. The top 25 dairy youth are then selected using a scorecard format. In the program's first year, just over $11,000 was awarded to deserving youth. In 2010, just over $16,000 was raised to distribute amongst the top 25. The dairy showcase's organizing committee hopes to grow the program's disbursement of funds in the coming years but say a program like this is "long overdue" for the dedicated dairy kids who work hard year-round, not just during show season.