By William Croyle
INDEPENDENCE - Paul Siffel was trying to catch his breath outside the arena as sweat poured down his face. The 13-year-old had just spent much of the morning in competition, trying to keep SpongeBob SquarePants in check.
"And he didn't even have an attitude today," Paul said.
SpongeBob is Paul's 6-month-old lamb. Paul emerged Monday from the 4-H/FFA Market Lamb Show at the Kenton County Fair as Junior Showmanship Champion. It was his first time winning in three years of competition.
Paul is one of 2,500 kids, ages nine through 18, who are members of 4-H in Kenton County. Many of them will be at the fair this week, showing their hogs, steer, poultry, rabbits, cats and dogs.
"I don't think you can measure the importance of this to these kids," said Kenton County 4-H Agent Sandy Burgoon. "We're a youth development organization. It's great to see the growth in the kids and the responsibility they take on."
The Senior Showmanship Champion was 17-year-old Christie Wilson. Christie and her lamb, Franco, then defeated Paul and SpongeBob as overall showmanship champions.
"This is an important show," said Christie, a first-time winner after seven years of showing. "There is a lot of pride in what we do."
The showmanship competition is more about the owners than it is their lambs. "The quality of the lamb has no bearing whatsoever," said Toni Riley, judge of this year's competition. "It's what the child does with the lamb and what the child knows. It's the child's opportunity to excel."
Christie was also crowned Grand Champion of the Market Lamb Show in a contest that focused on the lamb's physiology and anatomy.
She and Franco edged out 15-year-old Jill Schmiade and her lamb, Peanut. Jill was crowned Reserve Champion.
The lambs will be part of the Sale of Champions show Wednesday night, when the owners part with their companions for good.
"I'll probably cry a little bit when he goes," said Paul. "It's hard when you've been working together for three months."
"You get used to the lambs," said Jill. "It's a little tough to sell them."
Christie said Franco once tried to lie down next to her. She immediately jumped up.
"I told myself 'No way,'" she said. "I used to be emotionally attached to them, but I don't let that happen anymore."
If you go
Kenton County Fair 4-H shows
Today: Market hog show - 9:30 a.m.
Wednesday: Market steer show - 9:30 a.m.; sale of champions - 7 p.m.
Thursday: Poultry show - 6 p.m.
Saturday: Rabbit show - 10 a.m.; cat show - 1 p.m.; dog show - 5 p.m.
Getting there: The fairgrounds are on Taylor Mill Road at Harris Pike in Independence.
Information: (859) 356-3738 or www.kentoncountyfair.org
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