There was a constant bustle of activity both human and animal at the Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair livestock sale Friday evening, but the many young animal husbandmen who were there to show their pigs, goats, sheep and other creatures still found time to get together.
McKenzie Zepp, 13, sat atop her 267-pound pig, Harry, while a group of other teens hung around and chatted with her. Zepp said her family mostly raises cattle but that she enjoyed raising pigs as well. It was her fifth year participating in the livestock auction and she said her favorite part was socializing in the time spent waiting for her chance to show Harry.
"I like hanging out with friends and getting to run around," Zepp said. "It's really fun."
While Zepp awaited her turn to take her pig before the buyers, Owen Zepp, 10, was talking to his friends after his time before the buyers with his two pigs.
"I had two pigs, Dash and Boss Hogg, like from the Dukes of Hazard," Zepp said.
Boss Hogg was sold to McGrew Equipment for $6.50 per pound and weighed 273 pounds, according to Zepp, who said he planned on raising pigs again next year.
"It's easy," he said.
The livestock auction at the 4-H Fair has been held for 118 years, according to Livestock Sale Committee Chairwoman Ramona Rawlings, who has been on the livestock sale committee for 17 years herself. She said it's always enjoyable to see children having so much fun at the event, but that participation is also an educational experience.
"These kids are learning as they do this and learning responsibility," Rawlings said. "It takes a lot of responsibly to raise pigs or cattle."
When a child's animal is bought at auction, the livestock committee gives those funds to the child, minus a six percent commission that the committee uses to finances the next year's event, purchasing equipment and paying judges. Children or their parents may save money made at the sale toward a college education and others reinvest some or all of it in the next cycle of animal production.
"Some children use the money to buy next year's project," Rawlings said. "It shows them the banking and survival skills for life."
Of course, selling an animal means saying goodbye with the knowledge that it will become someone's meal, but that doesn't really bother Crystal Stowers, 13, who has raised goats, rabbits, sheep and pigs for the sale for the past five years.
"Most of the buyers are good friends or people I know," Crystal said. "It's a little emotional the first year when your favorite animal is auctioned off."
Crystal's 16-year-old sister, Paige, was even more direct, and said she's been raising animals since she was 4- or 5-years-old.
"I've been doing this since I was little," she said. "You raise 'em up and eat 'em and then move on."
For Crystal and Paige, 4-H has become a family tradition, one they both plan to continue.
"My mom did 4-H when she was little, so she had us start as soon as we could," Paige said.
Raising animals for the fair is a tradition for families and a tradition for the county and, according to Rawlings, a tradition she loves watching continue.
"They prepare for this all year and it's wonderful to see them," she said. I've been doing this for 17 years and I've been watching the children of children I watched raise animals years ago. It's been super. It makes me feel old, but it's super."