Fair Judges decide fate of the fair

Friday, July 18, 2014
Mike Harman looks over the goats during the goat show at the Buena Vista County Fair. / Photo by Mark Schafer

They come from all walks of life, and in some cases from several counties away. While the children work all year around to make their projects the best they can be, the judges that get to have the final say.

"I really enjoy coming out to these events and judging them," said Mike Harman who served as the judge for the goat show at the Buena Vista County Fair. "It is great to see all the projects and animals that are put together."

Harman comes from Hull, and has helped out in a bunch of county fairs. Part of it is his profession, but most often judges serve for the joy of it.

"For some of the smaller county fairs it is hard for them to get judges all the time for all the shows," Harman said. "Being a goat farmer it is easy to come out for the goat shows."

Harman, like most of the other judges who judge the livestock shows at the fair, works with the animals that he judged when the fair season is not in session.

Just about every type of occupation that involves an animal was represented in the fair judges. Horse ranchers to veterinarians, to dog owners all came out to lend a hand and take a look at the animals that had been raised by the Buena Vista County 4-Hers.

Many of the judges were contestants in these type of shows early in their life, being able to create a circle of contestants in the fairs.

"When I was younger I was involved in 4-H and always enjoyed fair time," Harman said. "Back then I showed cattle, and they are a handful to handle for the children. I like judging goats a lot better."

As Harman grew older his interests changed and his profession changed as well.

Harman slowly grew out of raising cattle, and started to raise a different type of animal, which he has turned into a successful farming operation.

"I raise goats on a farm, so I guess that is what qualifies me for being the judge of the goat show today," Harman explained. "I like being able to judge goats more than some of the other animals. Since I raise them I feel connected to them, but I also think that they are more of an animal that is easier to handle for the children, and goats have more personality to them."

Personality in animals can be something that is hard to diagnose, but it is something that most of the judges look for when it comes to the event.

"There are the things that I always look for in animals," Harman said. "Their health, and the structure of the animal are the most common things that judges are looking for, but in the champion and grand champion and reserve champion you might be more on the personality side, in addition to all the other factors. Especially since by then they are really close in terms of everything."

Harman explained that while all animals can have personalities, to him goats have more personalities than some of the other animals that are shown like cows or sheep.

"Goats just do things that set them apart," Harman said. "Once you grow up with goats you grow to understand each one. You can be in a pen with 100 goats and recognize each goat by the way it acts or even the noises that they make."

When the animals are in the show ring the personalities of not only the goats but also the children raising them seem to come out.

"You can especially tell when a child really has a connection with their animal in the goat show," Harman said. "They can almost anticipate what the animal is going to do before it happens."

Like several of the other judges, Harman volunteered to judge at the fair. For Harman, getting into animal judging was just thrust upon him.

"I started judging animals a few years ago, since I worked on a goat farm," said Harman. "So I decided to do it, and have been judging a few every year for a few years now. It is a great way to get out of county people to come to the show."

Having the judges come in from out of county is something that the extension office always tries to accomplish in order to keep everything as fair as possible at the fair.

While 4Hers are rightfully in the spotlight with their animal projects, shows wouldn't be possible without those who volunteer to judge them.

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