By Matt Reese
Banners are nice. Success is great. But really, at the end of each Ohio State Fair, it is really about the experience, lessons learned and the people. Though Caroline Winter from Pickaway County has had some success in showmanship and breed shows, those are not the first things she shares about what she loves about the Ohio State Fair.
“I have been showing since I could walk. I love hanging out with my friends who are also my competitors,” the 17-year-old said. “In the show ring we compete, but if my friend beats me, I don’t hold it against them. Whatever happens in the show ring, we go get ice cream or play a game of cards — a very competitive game of cards.
“Spoons is my favorite card game at the State Fair. We’ll get a big game going and it is a lot of fun. And, for the ice cream, you have to go at the right time because if you don’t the line is wrapping around the building. I go after I show to get a nice treat, cool off and look at the butter cow.”
The fun at the Ohio State Fair is the culmination of months of long hours and dedication — something many fairgoers do not always understand.
“I love how there are all sorts of different people with all sorts of different backgrounds who come to watch the show. They ask questions and I love talking with them about the cattle,” Caroline said. “A lot of people look forward to seeing the animals and learning about them. I love to talk about the daily care that goes into the animals and what it takes to show them and how much food they actually eat. It is fun talking to them about the animals. I like explaining what I do and why I do it. And yes, they do poop and I do have to clean it up.”
This year Caroline (with some help from her older sister Christina) will have three Angus heifers, a Shorthorn cow calf pair, a Shorthorn calf, an Angus steer, a ShorthornPlus steer, and a Maintainer steer at the Ohio State Fair. Many hours go into the care of the cattle leading up to the State Fair but Caroline also has a long set of duties on her family’s crop farm and she trains for fall cross-country in her spare time.
“In the mornings in the summer I start with feeding the cattle and getting them in the barn. We rinse every day. When my dad gets home we help with hay, planting, working ground, and harvesting in the fall,” she said. “In the winter we clean the barn and feed a lot of hay. We have a corn-wheat-soybean rotation with another 80 acres of hay — small square bales and big round bales. I help with hay all summer and I am always working with the cattle.”
There is plenty of work to be done with the cattle while they are at the State Fair, but in comparison to the normal summer schedule for Caroline, the event is like a vacation.
“With the breeding show during the first part of the State Fair, we are in and out so quickly there is not much extra time. But I like the people there, especially in the Shorthorn Breeders Association. They are so nice and friendly. They love their card games and they give out popsicles,” Caroline said. “With the market show later in the Fair, I only have three animals so I can relax a little more. When we are up at the State Fair with the market steers, it is like a vacation away from home and I am able to hang out with my friends and relax. There is way less to take care of compared to the Pickaway County Fair where I had two market steers, a feeder calf, two market lambs, a breeding ewe, and a market hog. Then I went right from county fair to the Shorthorn Junior Nationals in Tennessee. At the county fair or when I’m at home, I have something going on every day.”
Of all the species Caroline shows, the cattle are her favorite, which makes her State Fair experience even more special.
“With the sheep or pigs, I only have a few months with them. With the cattle, I am working with them year round. You can really see the difference with them starting to trust you and you get this bond with them as they get used to you. Nugget is my Shorthorn cow I’m taking to State Fair. We have gone to many shows together,” Caroline said. “We did the BEST program and other state fairs. Before she had her baby we’d go out here in the lot and play tag. I’d sprint through the pasture and she’d run after me. In the stalls at shows I lay down beside her with my back at the front of the stall and she will lay her head right on me.”
Her favorite part of competing with the cattle is showmanship.
“I like showmanship. It doesn’t matter how good your animal is,” she said. “It is about how well you can present your animal. The judge is mainly focused on you and I like to show how well I can present my animal.”
Caroline will have the unique opportunity to share her showmanship expertise and excitement for the fair this year as a part of the inaugural Dean’s Charity Steer Show on July 30 at 2:00 p.m. in the Voinovich Building. For the event, celebrity exhibitors — including some who never set foot in a show ring — will be paired with Ohio 4-H members to try their hand at showing a steer and vying for the judge’s eye. Donors can support each celebrity involved and proceeds go to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio.
Caroline will be assisting Matt Barnes, a Columbus News anchor for NBC4 Today, as he makes his initial trip into the show ring to wrangle a steer.
“Bill Tom from the Ohio State Fair came to me and asked if I wanted to do this at Beef Expo because I have exhibited for so long. I wanted to do this to return the favor of everyone who has helped me. And I know it is going to a really good cause. I actually know some families who have used the Ronald McDonald House. And it sounded fun,” Caroline said. “I always like teaching people about showing cattle and this gives me another chance to do that. Matt Barnes came down to our county fair to watch me get the steers ready for the show and then watched me show them. He asked some questions about the steers and did a short interview. He has no background with steers. I told him, you have to just relax.
“If you get worked up, the steer will get worked up, so you have to be comfortable with them. Once he gets comfortable we’ll lead the steer around some and get the feet set a few times to practice. Then we’ll work on some more of the details. Matt seems pretty excited about it. He asked me if I’ve ever taught someone in one day before. I think he seems very willing to try. If he tries and gives his best effort then he will do pretty well.”
Caroline is really looking forward to the event and the Ohio State Fair as a whole. She is hoping to celebrate some State Fair success with some cold, chocolate ice cream from the dairy building. And, like every exhibitor at the fair, she would love a new banner to hang in the barn, but Caroline knows the experience, lessons learned and the people make every year a success at the Ohio State Fair no matter what the outcome in the show ring.
To find out more about the Dean’s Charity Steer Show and make a donation today at cfaes.osu.edu/deanscharitysteershow.