by Danielle Beard
Parsons, Kansas —
The 24th Annual 4-State Invitational Dairy Days will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday, June 21-23 at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Bentonville, Arkansas.
According to Jim Griffin, Dairy Days began after the June Dairy Show — put on by Crawford Extension — went by the ‘way side.’
“The kids had nothing to do in the summer — no place to show,” Griffin said. “So we got it started back up.”
The first year about five calves participated.
“Its grown from the first year, to this past year where over 160 head of cattle were shown by approximately 70 exhibitors,” he added.
Tim Crawley, who judged the first show, said participation has come in waves over time.
“We’re at a point now where some of the parents of the kids showing were exhibitors themselves in the beginning years of Dairy Days,” he explained.
The event which is open to youth in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma in 4-H, FFA and FCCLA is not only a show for dairy cattle but also offers a wide variety of educational events such as a dairy skill-a-thon, dairy judging contest, showmanship, dairy olympics, silent auction and an ice cream social.
The show also gives exhibitors an opportunity to qualify for state and national events. The Arkansas Dairy Ambassador Contest, sponsored by Arkansas Farm Bureau, will be held on Friday of the event, while the quiz bowl contest — also held on Friday — gives participates a chance to qualify for the national contest held in Louisville, Kentucky.
Typically a two-day event, this year, for the first time, Dairy Days will be spread out over three days.
“We decided we were trying to cram too much into two days,” Crawley said. “The kids were beat and were losing some of the educational and fun aspects of it all.”
Dairy Days will now run from Friday at 1 p.m. to Sunday when the breed shows finish.
Also new to the 2013 Dairy Days is the Senior Fitting Contest and Select Dairy Heifer Sale .
“That way if the kids don’t have a heifer, or if they want another one to show they can come, buy a heifer on Saturday and show it on Sunday. Our goal is to have all breeds available in the sale,” Crawley explained.
The fitting contest will be for 16 and older. Participants will bring an animal unclipped — except for the head. They will then have an hour to clip and fit it to be show-ready.
Another thing that separates this three-day event from other dairy shows is that all meals are provided. Each meal is sponsored by either an organization or from revenue gained from advertising sales.
"It's all about the kids," Griffin commented.
Which is the reason the entire event committee works to provide a fun and educational weekend for kids in the industry, or wanting to become involved with dairy.
"We see the dairy industry is dwindling, funds being taken away from Extension service and we feel like its important that it's done. We had the opportunity when we were kids, and have seen the value that we feel we received from it and lessons learned, so we're just doing our part to give back to the industry," Crawley stated.
According to him, despite the dairy farm numbers going down, surprisingly, participation in Dairy Days continues to rise.
Griffin credits this to the lack of dairy shows.
"We have kids coming from a lot further than they used to, because there just isn't many places for them to show anymore," he said.
Crawley stresses this is exactly why they push to promote the event.
"We want these kids to come from distances, so they get to interact with others with the same interests, because dairies are sparse and so they can experience competition," he explained.
"The emphasis is not about who has the best cattle, but about learning. We try to find judges who work well with kids and have events such as the skill-a-thon and quiz bowl because it gives them something to work towards," Crawley added.
For Crawley's daughters, the event is an opportunity to get to see friends who live far away.
"A lot of other shows are tense, it's all about trying to do your best, but at this one we can relax, hangout and just enjoy the weekend," said 16-year-old Jessica Crawley.
Aside from the show and socializing, events like dairy olympics are a crowd favorite for not only the exhibitors, but for the parents watching as well.
"My favorite dairy olympics event is probably cow racing," said 14-year-old Brittany Crawley.
Cow racing, she explained, is exactly like it sounds. Contestants line up and run with their cows.
Dad, Tim Crawley, added that one of his favorite events in dairy olympics involved the kids acting like they had just arrived at the show.
"They had to unload the trailer and set everything up, it got pretty rowdy," he chuckled.
Entry fees after June 1 are $12 per head. Entry fees go towards helping pay facility costs as well as exhibitor's t-shirts. Bedding for livestock is provided by 4-State Dairy Days.
For more information contact Tim or Nikki Crawley at 479-291-4552 or visit www.4statedairydays.org.£