A growing tradition at the 2017 Marion County Fair brought boys and girls between the ages of three and seven together for a calf show, immersing them in the same experience as their older siblings, cousins and friends.

A growing tradition at the 2017 Marion County Fair brought boys and girls between the ages of three and seven together for a calf show, immersing them in the same experience as their older siblings, cousins and friends.

Shannon DeHaan said her family joined other families to kick off the Pee Wee Calf Show for the 2016 Marion County Fair. For 2017, several families who raise goats and sheep asked fair board members if they could host Pee Wee Goat and Sheep Shows for the first time — giving younger kids the opportunity to show livestock like 4-H members do in the shows open to participants who are eight or older. DeHaan is a family friend to five-year-old Brylee Dames, who has been helping feed and give water to her calf, Mr. Moo, for the past five months before the Pee Wee Calf Show on Friday, Aug. 4.

Dames said she felt nervous at first when she went into the arena to show her calf, but she enjoyed getting to join in the action like her cousins, Donovan, 6, and Emma, 8; and her siblings, Ty, 3, and Olivia, 7. Dames also showed a goat and a sheep during the Pee Wee Shows, noting her favorite part of the experience was getting to show her sheep, Phoebe. She said she would definitely be returning for the shows during next year’s fair. As she sat down with Dames, DeHaan said the Pee Wee Shows offered a great opportunity that she would have thoroughly enjoyed before she could join 4-H.

“You can’t start 4-H until you’re eight years old, so now they’re being able to start and learn the process of how to do this before they are eligible,” she said. “So it’s awesome to just have all of these kids out here to learn about agriculture and it’s just a very good experience, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Dames said with a smile.

Seven-year-old Sophie Martin carefully brushed the her calf Betsy’s coat, talking about the show with her father, Shawn Martin. Sophie has cared for her calf since March, and she helps her brother with food and water. The experience gets every member of the family involved, Shawn Martin said.

“Everybody’s involved in some way or another — whether you’re paying for it, getting dirty by it or losing sleep because you’re out there dealing with the animals — you’re always there,” Martin said. “It’s very involved, but it’s worth it.”

Martin said he enjoyed watching his children in the shows as all their work comes together..

“It’s a great feeling,” Martin said. “Her mother and I really enjoy watching them do this, and it’s great seeing them participate and working with the animals.”

Marion County Farm Bureau President Joe Kendrick said the weather was excellent, and large crowds filled with parents, grandparents and other loved ones cheered on the smiling competitors. The cattle show brought in 57 participants. The Pee Wee Goat Show attracted 17 participants, and 23 youth participated in the Pee Wee Sheep Show during their first years at the fair. Kendrick said the shows were off to a great start, pointing out that if one one-half or one-third of the 20 participants in the seven-year-old category joined 4-H, it will help bolster the program with more new members.

Kendrick commended the shows’ sponsors who helped provide each competitor with a bucket, a comb, a brush and what might have been the most popular gift of them all — an ice cream sandwich.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com