A couple hundred people came out in the heat Saturday evening for one of the Harford County Farm Fair's most well-attended events, and perhaps its most enduring tradition.
The 4-H exhibitors, spectators and bidders gathered under a large pavilion, following along with the auctioneer's hurried attempts to seek higher bids at the 4-H Livestock Auction.
Starting off the evening, as always, were the champions for each breed.
Maggie Holloway, a 13-year-old from Darlington, stepped into the ring first with her Grand Champion Market Hog, "Mr. Beefy."
Mr. Beefy was so large he was nearly overweight in his class, Maggie said later, but still managed to surpass all other hogs at the Farm Fair.
At a weight of 266 pounds, the hog sold at $4.70 per pound, purchased by representatives from Giant Supermarket of Rock Spring. But the purple and green Grand Champion Hog banner winners were Store Manager Josh Hardester and Regional Meat Supervisor Bill Campbell, who walked away with was not to be their only banner for the evening.
With the Grand Champion Market Lamb and Grand Champion Market Steer, the Giant representatives headed into the ring two more times that evening, as did 17-year-old Melissa Grimmel, who is no stranger to winning these competitions.
Melissa's lamb, "Mac," and steer, "Mr. Ginger," named after his reddish coat, were both bought by the same Giant store, at $6.75 and $3.10 per pound, respectively.
The lamb weighed 121 pounds; the steer weighed in at a hefty 1,265 pounds.
Coming to the Farm Fair and getting the Grand Champion animals was important for Giant, the store's representatives said, with Hardester adding afterward, "We just like supporting the kids in the community."
The meat, they added, will be displayed in a gourmet case at the Bel Air store.
Although the auction saw many 4-H members' in tears as they bid farewell to the animals most have essentially lived with day in and day out for the past year, Melissa kept her composure. Having been in 4-H for more than 10 years and with a track record for grand champion animals, Melissa, of Jarrettsville, said she has "gotten used to it."
"It's just the way it is," she said, but added later, "you see them every day, so it's hard."
Making it even harder, too, is the time spent with the animal.
This year was 14-year-old Beth Johnson's eighth in 4-H but first year showing steers in the livestock auction. Her steer, "Bam Bam," didn't come to her by ordinary means, either. Bam Bam's mother, she said, died the first day the calf was born, so Beth, from Forest Hill, took over by bottle feeding him until he was old enough to eat regular food. By then, the pair was quite close.
"It followed me around," Beth said.
Beth's mother, Kathy Johnson, said Bam Bam was like a dog as he followed Beth. But, she added, a steer wasn't much use to a farm, especially considering they can't be bred.
"It's just hard to know it's kind of the end of it's journey," Kathy Johnson said.
Despite the sadness some 4-H members experienced with the auction, Harford County 4-H Director Cynthia Warner said the event, much like the 4-H program in general, teaches the young people responsibility.
Having animals in the livestock auction, especially those that qualified as champions, isn't something that's quickly done the week before the Farm Fair, Warner emphasized. It takes daily care and feeding.
Melissa, as the exhibitor of two Grand Champions, agreed, saying it takes a lot of "behind the scenes work" to get the animals ready.
"You can't really just go into the ring without any preparation," she said.
Although it can be hard to see the animals go, Melissa admitted, the 4-H program has taught her responsibility as well as public speaking. Events like the Farm Fair, too, give the community an inside look at the farming industry.
"It's nice to show them how their food gets on the table," she said.
Check back with http://www.exploreharford.com and see this week's print editions of The Aegis for more 4-H Livestock Auction results and other Farm Fair news.