The Grimmel family of Jarrettsville continued its winning tradition at this year's Harford County Farm Fair Saturday, as 9-year-old Madelyn Grimmel sold three Grand Champion animals she raised during the 47th annual 4-H Livestock Sale.
The livestock auction, typically considered among the fair's most popular attractions, took place in a pavilion packed with spectators and buyers bidding on prize-winning cattle, sheep and hogs, as well as goats, rabbits, poultry, cakes and a commemorative Farm Fair quilt.
Organizers called the auction "a record-breaking sale," with the largest number of animals and largest number of buyers who purchased livestock at higher prices than prior years.
"By far, it's going to be our best sale," Mike Doran, head of the livestock sale committee, said as the results were being tabulated.
The auction lasted about four and a half hours, during which 184 animals, including 33 steers, 39 lambs, six goats and 106 hogs, were sold.
The auctioneers, Zach Shelley and county Register of Wills Derek Hopkins, who is a former auctioneer, sought bids from the crowd in a rapid-fire style. Among those bidding were politicians, local businesses and farm community members, as well as organizations and individuals who are longtime supporters of 4-H and the fair.
The auction raised $256,768.75; the majority of the proceeds go back to the exhibitors, who use the money for their college educations, with some also being used for scholarships, Doran said.
Madelyn, the youngest of five Grimmel daughters, is the second Grimmel sibling to win Grand Champion in three categories, which is known as the 4-H show's "triple crown." This year was her second year showing animals at the fair.
Her older sister Melissa, now 20, won the triple crown in 2010.
"No, I was so surprised," Madelyn said after she showed her animals, regarding whether she expected to win three Grand Champion ribbons during the livestock show, which was held Friday evening of the fair.
She gathered in a cattle barn with her parents and sisters Melissa and Lindsey, who is 23 years old. She and her sisters – the oldest are Kristen, 31, and Michelle, age 33 – have a combined 23 straight years of showing animals at the Farm Fair.
"Hard work pays off right?" Lindsey told Madelyn. "She's been busting her buns in the barn."
The auction is open to children and teens between the ages of 9 and 19 who are members of 4-H and Future Farmers of America chapters.
Melissa Grimmel showed her animals in the auction for the last time in 2013, after more than a decade of showing animals at the fair.
"It's quite different, but it's enjoyable and more relaxing," she said of not having to be in the show ring this year.
Melissa is going into her junior year at Kansas State University. She also took grand champion for her steer during the 2011 Maryland State Fair.
Madelyn showed her Grand Champion 1,314-pound market steer, named Frankenstein. The steer, who was slightly taller than Madelyn from the top of his head, was purchased by the Giant of Rock Spring supermarket for $5 a pound, her father Ed Grimmel said.
Her 129-pound Grand Champion market lamb, named Kristoff, was purchased by the King Family at $11 a pound, and her 258-pound market hog Olaf was purchased by Charles Martin for $6.50 a pound.
Madelyn said she named the lamb and the hog after characters in the hit Disney film "Frozen."
Many of the animals in the livestock show and sale were larger than their young handlers, especially the steers, and some were difficult to control.
One boy bumped his head with that of the steer he was escorting.
Doran said the exhibitors receive training through their programs on handling the animals, but "stuff does happen, there's no doubt. You just hope for the best."
"You can't show fear, or they're going to sense you are afraid of them and they'll know that they can push you around," said George Fritz, 9, of Joppa, who exhibited his 1,190-pound ribbon-winning steer Chester.
Chester sold for $2.15 a pound, he said.
The participants raise the animals that their families have either purchased from breeders or animals that are born on their family farms.
"It was super hard to let him go," Connie Fritz, 8, George's sister, said of her 20-month-old steer named Barack Obama.
The steer, who was born on her family's farm, weighed 1,180 pounds and sold for $2.30 a pound, she said.
Letting go of animals they have raised only to be sold for slaughter, is something each child and teenager who shows an animal at the auction has to deal with.
Some exhibitors were in tears as they brought their animals into the auction ring.
"They understand, but it's still hard to let them go," said Jason Smithson of Forest Hill, whose daughters Lacey, age 9, and Kayla, age 12, were showing hogs.
Before the hog auction, Lacey talked about everything she has to do to get the animals ready, including brushing and bathing them, giving them food and water and walking them "so they're not going crazy."
"It's fun, because when you show them in the shows, you feel like you raised them not just to be meat," she said.
Rosalie McGuirk, 10, and her brother Will, 11, showed their steers.
Her steer Buzz, which weighed 1,305 pounds, sold for $3.75 a pound, she said. Buzz won ribbons for fourth place in the market category and was the reserve champion for rate of gain.
Her brother's 1,346-pound steer Mocha sold for $3.45 a pound; Mocha was a rate of weight gain champion and was second in market class.
"It was a little tough beforehand," Rosalie said. "You have to prepare yourself to get rid of the animal, but once you realize that you get lots of money, it's not as bad."