By MARK BUTZOW
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The excitement in the arena was palpable. After all, most watching were proud parents and grandparents eager to see their progeny bask in the glow of competition and perhaps have their breeding animal be chosen as best in state.
Indiana’s inaugural 4-H Supreme Drive, held August 12 in the Indiana State Fair Coliseum, was the first in the Midwest and possibly anywhere for breeding animals.
“A lot of other fairs don’t recognize their female livestock this way,” said Spencer Morris, Indiana State Fair livestock manager. “A lot of state fairs do separate events for Grand Gilt, Grand Ewe and Grand Dairy in their show barns. We’re the only Midwest state fair with a show for breeding females.”
Each participant had been selected as Grand Champion or Reserve Grand Champion in shows held earlier for their classes and breed of animal. At the Supreme Drive, all of those animals were paraded in and presented to a new set of judges – and the exhibitors selected as Supreme Champions earned additional cash premiums.
The Supreme Ewe and Supreme Gilt Champions each received $1,000, while the Reserve Champions earned $500. The Supreme Dairy Heifer and Supreme Dairy Cow each brought a $500 cash premium, with the Reserve Champions earning $250.
First up were the ewes named Grand Champions and Reserves in 16 breed categories, followed by Grand Champions and Reserves for six dairy breeds and, finally, Grand Champions and Reserves for 12 swine breeds. Applause greeted each exhibitor as they were announced and entered the corral with their animal.
The venue got quiet while judges evaluated the animals, although the ewes kept up a steady chorus of bleating. And then, applause broke out again as a judge identified the top animals and exhibitors.
“It’s quite an honor to be here for the opportunity to judge these animals,” dairy judge Ted Smart told the audience.
“In Oklahoma, we do the market animals, but we don’t do the females, the breeding animals,” said J.J. Maddon, who judged the ewes. “I think it’s great that you guys do this show to highlight them.”
The dairy heifers were judged separately from the mature dairy cows, so there were four Supreme Grand Champions named and four Reserves.
The Supreme Champion winners were Ty Leader (Montgomery County) for ewes, Dillon Freeman (St. Joseph County) for dairy heifers, Brad Fuhrmann (Adams County) for dairy cows and Hattie Duncan (Fountain County) for gilts.
The Reserve Supreme Champion winners were Jaden Younts (Adams County) for ewes, Valerie Messmore (Kosciusko County) for dairy heifers, Haliegh Mosser (Geneva) for dairy cows and Brody Everhart (Madison County) for gilts.
And it all took place “under the big lights and on the dirt floor of the Coliseum” – where every exhibitor really wants to show their animal, Morris said. He explained providing that “big lights, big audience” atmosphere was overdue.
The Grand Drive, where exhibitors of market animals are honored, has been a state fair staple for 25 years, and the spotlight sale has gone on for decades.
“We’d received some input over the years from 4-H ewe exhibitors and dairy exhibitors that they’d like to have a similar showcase. We listened, evaluated buildings and resources and, by maneuvering and moving other livestock shows, we found a space.”
In kicking off the program, Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler praised the hard work, character and determination of the thousands of 4-Hers showing livestock at the fair.
“For many of them, we know this will be a great start to great success in this industry,” he said.
After the event, Morris said it went well and that he’d already received direct positive feedback from exhibitors and their families. He said the event was carried live on Walton Webcasting, and the show will be archived and available for viewing by those who missed the excitement and pageantry.
“We hope to continue to add species to it and make it as special as we can,” he said, noting the next addition to future Supreme Drives could be meat-goat does.