4-H Competition

Just because the 4-H competition is for kids doesn't mean it's for amateurs. No, this statewide youth agriculture program has more regulations than the American nuclear industry: The bylaws for parking fill half a page! Animal husbandry is no ordinary hobby; your average skate-boarder doesn't need to sign something like a Dairy Goat Ownership Affidavit to compete. Though you'll see the 4-H kids slouching on lawn chairs in the swelter of the afternoon, most of them harbor some serious ambitions. Otherwise, there would be no need for the rule book to caution that "the use of drenching, mechanical pumping devices or other abnormal methods to administer water or fluids into animals will not be permitted." The beasts, for their part, are not ordinary beasts. The roosters here have garish and spectacular cockscombs—sculpted red crowns that look like makeup from a Matthew Barney flick. The swine are grotesque; truly, the swine barn is tolerable only to those with an appetite for the monstrous. The rabbits have ears that would do Prince Charles proud; the beef cattle show off flanks that could be used in a butcher's diagram. Lest any of these kids get mushy-hearted about what they're doing in Falcon Heights, the 4-H auction at the end of the Livestock show delivers a classic Yearling moment. The winning kids are relieved of their pride and joy and go home instead with some American currency. And a colored ribbon.


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