The casual visitor might think the Johnson County Junior Livestock Show and Youth Fair is all about the animals.
Johnson County Livestock and Agriculture Association President Chris Goodwin sees a little deeper.
“Our whole goal, No. 1, we’re making better kids,” said Goodwin, whose family has been showing at the event for three generations. “We’re teaching these kids a lot of life lessons.”
Of course, while that goal remains constant, other things change.
Now in its 78th year, the 2014 show runs from Saturday through Jan. 11. Like county livestock events across Texas, the show, once held in February, changed its dates to accommodate school testing.
Goodwin said the switch also gives dairy competitors a chance to qualify for the big Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo that begins a three-week run on Jan. 17.
Organizers have tweaked the rules to allow youngsters who want show a single chicken or rabbit to do so instead of requiring three animals.
That enables potential entrants who lost some animals to disease or varmints to participate.
As of last week about 600 competitors had turned in roughly 1,850 entries for the 2014 show. Late entries always add a few numbers to the total.
“As we’ve seen population grow, we’ve seen the show grow,” Goodwin said. “We need more room.”
That growth has meant limits. Hog entries, for example, are now capped at three per person.
The population surge that the Chisholm Trail Parkway, a toll road under construction that will link Cleburne and Fort Worth, is expected to bring may mean that the association will eventually need to find a new, more-spacious site.
However, for now the organizers are just focused on this year’s show and the annual king and queen contest and dinner that traditionally kicks it off.
The queen and ambassador each receive $10,000 scholarships.
Scholarship money helped Goodwin’s son attend Texas A&M University, he said. His son now works on the family farm.
The association also awards other scholarships, including one in memory of Kristopher Thetford, the late son of association Secretary Jon Thetford.
Kristopher Thetford was an Joshua FFA member and competitor, according to the association’s website.
Like his sons, who began showing at age 8, Jon Thetford competed in the event during his days as a student. Naturally, it’s great when you win something.
Of course, counting the price of feed and other expenses, participants often do well to break even. But as Goodwin said, that’s not the bottom line.
“If you have kids in this for the money, “ you better find something else to do, sir,” Thetford said. “In the long run it’s not about the money. Responsibility is a key word. I think we develop good kids through this program.”