Utah County Seniors Prepare to Compete in the Utah State Junior Livestock Show for the Last Time

The Utah State Junior Livestock Show is a fun and challenging event for all involved. This year is an especially important one because it’s the show’s 100th anniversary. It is also the last time senior participants are eligible to compete. The stock show allows participants to begin competing from the age of 8 through their senior year of high school.  

Emerson Williams, Landen Thomas, and Oaklie Wride are three of the local seniors who will show their animals in this year’s Utah State Junior Livestock Show for the last time. The occasion is bittersweet for them and marks the end of many years of hard work, anticipation, and fulfillment. 

Williams has been showing sheep at the Utah State Junior Livestock Show since she turned 8 years old. Her parents raised sheep and her dad showed them when he was younger. Growing up around animals and seeing their examples inspired her to want to show sheep, as well. Williams participates in approximately eight to 10 shows per year, primarily throughout Utah. 

Like Williams, Landen Thomas has been showing animals for 10 years, but he is the first person in his family to do it. When he was younger, a friend introduced him to the whole showing experience. A year after that, he ended up getting a pig and signing up for various events. 

Now, Thomas competes in around 35 shows spread all over the country. The shows range from small jackpots to national-level events. Out of all the Utah shows Thomas participates in, the Utah State Junior Livestock Show is his favorite. He said he appreciates how organized and well-managed it is.

Oaklie Wride is another local senior who has participated in livestock shows for 10 years. She grew up surrounded by animals and was taught how to love and care for them from a young age. She also watched her older siblings show animals, which gave her a desire to start doing it herself. She raises Simmental cattle and competes in approximately 20 shows throughout the year (including jackpots).

Competing for the last time in this particular event adds another dimension of emotion and anticipation to the seniors’ preparations. Even though it’s their last year, they are focused more on enjoying the experience than on winning buckles. 

“It’s mainly about what you take away from the shows, like friendships and sportsmanship and the amazing people you get to meet,” Williams said. 

All three seniors know firsthand what it takes to raise a show animal. From the moment the animal is born, a months-long journey of hard work begins. The seniors get up early to feed and care for their animals and often spend their after-school hours working with them and helping them maintain an ideal weight. Williams even puts her sheep on the treadmill and washes their legs regularly.  

The animals must also be comfortable with human interaction and learn how to stand correctly. 

“We spend hours upon hours with these animals performing these tasks over and over with the hopes that the animal will look their best at the show,” Wride said.

This type of dedication naturally builds skills such as perseverance and work ethic. Thomas said that learning how to wake up on time and be consistent has helped him in other areas of his life. 

As a 4-year volunteer for the Utah State Junior Livestock Show and chairman of the 100-year committee, Darann Smith loves seeing the life skills competitors develop. She explains that employers look for the types of character traits stock show kids have. One of the vendors for her excavation business told her that they “wanted this caliber of kids to work in (their) company.” 

Williams, Thomas, and Wride are deeply appreciative of the volunteers like Smith who continue to give competitors a place to showcase their animals. None of the volunteers are paid for the many hours of work required to make the event a well-organized success. Smith says that the volunteers are happy to do it because they love the kids and the program. 

This year, the 100-year committee plans to make the Utah State Junior Livestock Show an unforgettable one for all attendees. From service projects to fundraisers and auctions, there are plenty of special events to keep everyone interested and entertained. This year also marks the announcement of a new senior scholarship program. This will be a perpetuating scholarship program, which means it’s set up to continue for the next 100 years. The program gives seniors something to look forward to and helps offset the sadness that often occurs during their last competition year.  

Williams, Thomas, and Wride have a message for any kids who are thinking about showing animals. They all want to stress that the sacrifice is well worth it. Wride reminds young stock show participants to “work hard and your hard work will eventually pay off. Remember, you can only wear one buckle at a time. Don’t forget to help others along the way.” 

These dedicated seniors have certainly lived by that mantra. Spanish Fork is proud to host them at the 100th anniversary of the Utah State Junior Livestock Show, scheduled to run from April 30 through May 4.  

Shellie Peterson
Shellie Petersonhttp://Ewritingstudio.com
Shellie Peterson is a mom, wife and freelance writer. She currently lives in Santaquin with her husband and daughter. In her spare time, she loves to sing, read, write and spend as much time as possible camping.

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