On Monday, 17-year-old Melissa Grimmel was getting things ready for the first day of school. Like other students around the state, Melissa got a couple extra days of summer vacation due to the effects ofHurricane Irene.
But Melissa didn't spend her time off from school like most incoming seniors, who typically spend their days at the mall with friends, hanging out at the beach or working a part-time job. The Jarrettsville teen, after months of raising, grooming and hard work, won the grand champion title for her steer at the Maryland State Fair, possibly the first Harford County resident to do so.
Father Ed Grimmel couldn't say for certain whether or not his daughter was the first person in Harford to achieve the award, but she's definitely the first "in recent memory."
Melissa, who lives on her father's farm in Jarrettsville, first started with 4-H club when she was 8 years old and began showing animals right away, starting with market lambs, pigs and hogs.
Being part of 4-H was already a long-standing tradition in the family — older sisters Michelle, Kristen and Lindsey all participated and showed animals.
"I've shown [at the state fair] ever since my first year, so this is about my ninth year showing," Melissa said. In previous years, she has shown market pigs, sheep and cattle and "just did really well with my steer this year."
As easy as she makes it sound, Melissa put in a lot of work in just this one steer.
"I got him last fall, and ever since then we've counted the days to the state fair so he [would be] the right weight. So, he's feeding and [we] exercise him so he's not fat," she said. "It's a lot of work."
The Grimmels took the steer to other shows around the state and East Coast before his appearance at the State Fair Friday and "won a few prizes." In March, Melissa showed her steer at a show in Harrisburg, Pa., and "did very well."
Her years of experience in raising and showing animals helped Melissa prepare for the fair.
Every night the steer was washed and groomed to prep him for his big day.
"When you get ready to show, you can't just expect to walk in the ring and win. There's a lot of behind the scenes work."
Having three older siblings with experience in showing animals also paid off in the long run.
"Especially with my sisters doing it in the past, we kind of just built and built up in getting better quality [animals] and learning so much more."
Melissa didn't hesitate to express gratitude for her family, saying everyone worked as a team.
"It ended up being a good thing and brought us closer together," she said.
Her "team" is no stranger to winning: Melissa won the grand champion title at last year's Harford County Farm Fair for market pig, lamb and steer, the triple crown. It was her biggest accomplishment at the fair.
She shows animals at the Farm Fair, too, raising the market projects in hopes of selling them to a grocery store or just a hungry family. The long process of getting the animal, raising it and then selling it takes about a year.
"A market steer you usually get about October and raise them through summer and take it to the fair to sell," Melissa said. "And in about May we get in the market pigs and sheep and raise them until the county or state fairs."
The money Melissa wins at various shows and receives after selling an animal goes toward the costs of raising and showing the next market project as well as her college education. "It's a good way to get a head start," she said.
The sale of Melissa's grand champion steer had to be postponed, however, due to the weekend's hurricane.
Originally the sale was to be Saturday night, but has been moved to 7 p.m. Sunday at the Timonium Fairgrounds.
With only two more years left to show with 4-H, Melissa plans to take full advantage of that time.
"I want to finish them out as strong as possible," she said about her remaining years with the club.
While a person can still show animals without being a part of 4-H, Melissa added that it's much harder to do so.
However, as Melissa's time with 4-H comes to an end, younger sister Madelyn, who is currently 6, will be starting.
"I can help her like my older sisters helped me."