Months of hard work, sweat and long hours tending to livestock culminated Thursday evening when area youth showcased their champion-caliber livestock during the annual Championship Drive at the Santa Barbara County Fair.
"It takes a lot of dedication and patience to raise a championship-level animal," said swine judge Blake Davis, of Fort Scott, Kansas. "A lot of the times you get it wrong a lot more than you get it right."
After transporting their goats, swine, sheep and steer into pens at the start of the week, exhibitors from area 4-H clubs and local FFA programs hoped to land the coveted supreme champion after placing at the top of their breed during preliminary competitions. While winners take home banners and ribbons, livestock named supreme and reserve champion will undoubtedly fetch a higher price during Saturday's auction.
Preparation began months ago, several of the winners said, when they hand-picked the newborn animals and raised them as their own. Some fed their animals twice or three times a day, while regularly bathing, washing and grooming them.
"It felt great to win," said Old Town 4-H member Macie Taylor, whose hog Stanley was named supreme champion during the judging. A five-year swine exhibitor and two-time Championship Drive entrant, this was Taylor's first win in the event.
Twice-a-day meals and daily walks kept Stanley in good shape, Taylor said, and taught her the virtue of practice and hard work. Davis said the hog had an exceptional build and was of a higher quality than other entries.
"It was a lot of dedication," she said.
Lompoc FFA member Andrew Cordova and his steer, Lucky, were named reserve champion during the market steer judging. A senior and three-year FFA member, Cordova said a love of agriculture encouraged him to join at the start of his freshman year.
"It was nice," he said of the honor. "It felt real good; this was my first time."
Steer judge Laramie Priest, of Lorena, Texas, called Lucky an "absolute freak" in terms of muscle and structure. His big back, stout hips and wide base — telltale signs of a big-boned animal — made him a standout during the final competition.
"Every day I put in two hours of work," he said, recounting the strict feeding and grooming regimen. "It was a lot of dedication."
Kayla Minetti and her steer Tigger, who were named FFA grand champion during the preliminary competition, secured the supreme championship during the Championship Drive.
"It feels good, but I'm relieved this is over now," she said.
With another successful year under her belt, Minetti plans to celebrate her victory with fair food — mini doughnuts, specifically.