By Dave Russell and Matt Reese
There is no doubt that showing cattle can get pretty competitive as young exhibitors work their way through the BEST (Beef Exhibitor Show Total) program, a statewide series of sanctioned cattle shows that include showmanship competitions. The Clark County Cattle Battle (as its name would imply) is no exception, but before exhibitors showcase their skills and their cattle in the ring, the weekend kicks off in a unique way with the BEST Celebrity Showdown.
For the event, the exhibitors dress themselves and their cattle in (often outlandish) costumes with the hope of catching the eye of a celebrity judge who picks the costume contest winner. Each exhibitor must raise at least $100 in donations to participate, with proceeds going to a worthy charity. The 2020 event, in its eighth year, was held on Friday, Jan. 24 at the Champions Center in Springfield. This year’s event raised $16,370. Additionally, a silent auction was held with numerous items selling to generous supporters that raised an additional $3,710 for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. In total, the event
raised $20,080, and contributions can continue to be made through May 2, 2020.
Linde Sutherly helps coordinate the event and is pleased with its success.
“It is so near and dear to our hearts. We’re just so proud of these kids and their excitement to help others. We’ve raised over $100,000 for Make-A-Wish and just tonight we raised over $16,000 for the Ronald McDonald House with 40 kids. The kids are working so hard and they want to help others. It just gives you hope and shows you the good in the world,” Sutherly said at the 2020 event. “We wanted to teach these kids that the world is so much bigger than just cows. Cows are a wonderful tool and a wonderful thing to be involved with but there are people out there who need our help.”
The show has become an event exhibitors anticipate months ahead of time.
“It just took off. There is a lot of effort and time and hours on the part of a lot of people to put this on. In the hour of the show, though, I just stand and take it all in
and enjoy seeing the joy in the kids faces and all of the hard work they put into their costumes,” Sutherly said. “They want to do it. Thy love it and they look forward to it. This sets a tone for the whole weekend. There is a whole different feeling at this show. It is not about yourself and your calf. You tend to feel pretty thankful that we are here showing and not in a hospital. This really puts things in perspective.”
Exhibitor Victoria Waits from Fayette County participated in her last Celebrity Showdown in her final year of BEST eligibility by donning an elegant gown while leading a tuxedo-clad bovine around the show ring. Together with her partner, Ashton Bain from Highland County, Waits was the top fundraiser for the event with $5,250. Waits said she has really benefitted from the BEST Program in general, but the Celebrity Showdown is particularly special for her.
“This event is a time when I can raise awareness for some children who are struggling. It helps me feel like I am contributing back. Over the four years I have done this, I’ve generated over $10,000. The first year I didn’t really understand what the money was going to but after that year I realized what the program was about. I met this little kid who was a Make-A-Wish kid, he had cancer and lost his eye. He took his family to Disney World. He meant so much to me. I want to see these kids be happy at a time when they are really struggling in their lives,” Waits said. “I’m actually a very shy person. It was really hard for me to get out in my community and go out and ask local businesses if they’d like to donate. Because of this, I have become much more confident in myself as a person. This shows that people have big hearts. This is something that I have grown to love. I know what this means to me and I am so happy to be a part of it. This program has helped me grow so much and I’m so happy that it is out there for these younger kids because I know they’ll grow just as much as I have.”
Waits and her costumed partner had a great night, but did not come out on top.
Jordan Flax and Sophie Wilson from Clark County seemed to be dangerously swimming with sharks and were selected as the costume contest winners by celebrity judge Erica Collura, a meteorologist with Channel 12 in Cincinnati. In second were Madison and Austin King of Logan County who where dressed up as Colonial Sanders, with a couple of chickens.
The biggest winner of the night, though, was the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio (RMHC). The mission of RMHC is to create, find, and support programs that directly improve the health and well being of children and their families. Located across the street from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, the Ronald McDonald House serves as a home-away-from-home for families while a child is hospitalized. More than 4,500 families use the facility each year with 82,000 nights of lodging provided. The Columbus facility is the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world with 137 guest rooms and 120,000 square feet to provide some comfort for families going through some truly challenging experiences while traveling for the medical care their children need. The 2020 Celebrity Showdown raised over $15,000 in exhibitor-generated donations.
RMHC executive director Dee Anders was excited to be a part of the event.
“At the Ronald McDonald House, we have all of the comforts that you would have in your home. We have a laundry room an exercise room and a theater, but the most important thing we have at the house is a community. People are with other folks in the same situation they are in so they can empathize with them. They can mentor them and let them cry on their shoulder and be a community,” Anders said. “We operate on donations. The community supports the house and we are so grateful for this. When they invited us we were thrilled to come. This is an amazing group of folks and we are honored to be a part of this.”
Through the Celebrity Showdown a worthy charity benefits, spectators get a unique show and the exhibitors form memories that will last a lifetime while learning the value of serving others. Stephanie Sindel with the Ohio Cattleman’s Association oversees the BEST Program and has seen firsthand the incredible value the event has for its participants.
“This is an event everybody gets hyped about. It shows folks how to be good citizens in their community. It has been 8 years ago when the Clark County cattle producers came to Ohio Cattlemen’s Association and knew they wanted to do a celebrity showdown where the youth in the Cattle Battle can raise funds for a charitable donation and have an impact as a group,” Sindel said. “We learned early on to never underestimate the power of the kids in the BEST Program. We set the goals high and they deliver every time. The sky’s the limit. We are proud of the leadership they possess and they have really bright futures. The BEST Program is extremely competitive and this is a night where the exhibitors can all come together for a cause that supports the big picture and what life is all about.”