COLUMBIA, S.C. — Thursday was the first day of beef cattle shows at the South Carolina State Fair. People have come from all over the state to show off their animals, and it takes a lot of work to prepare.
Amberlyn Christenbury is a 10th-grader at Crescent High School. She’s also the owner and operator of LYN Farms. She’s at the fair ready to show off the animals she’s raised herself.
"I've been doing it for 10 years now since I was five, and it's just been my whole life since then," Christenbury said. "We get the calves born, put them in the panels, start feeding them, start working with them. And then, twice a day every day, feed him in the morning, feed them at night."
"At night we normally rinse, wash, get that air going so we can really try to fit these animals when we come to this show," she added.
Agriculture teacher Phillip Rhodes has helped students like Christenbury prepare for the big day.
"These students work all year long to get to this point. This is our state competition, so we brought these here to exhibit and do the best we can," Rhodes said. "Having them here and having them able to see this and experience it is one of the best feelings in the world."
The group has been spending time with its cattle all year to get ready. Now that the time is here, they’re working extra hard.
"We actually got here right around 4 a.m. and as we got here, we split up in a couple different groups. But the main priority was to get the cows that are showing this morning washed and ready to go," Rhodes said. "We got them out of tie-ups, brought them over to the wash rack, went ahead, rinsed, washed, rinsed again. Brought them back into the barn, blew 'em, put some product on their hair, just to keep working that hair every day, and then brought them in and fed them."
That means washing them, trimming and blowing out their hair, and spraying them to make sure their coats are in tip-top shape. Tenth grader Rainey Gibson said this prep time is "surreal."
"We wake up early and we get here before anybody else does, so you're working with these animals, like, before other people are even awake," Gibson said. "It's fun because you get to have this experience at such an early time that nobody else knows what you’re doing and it's just that one-on-one time."
Despite the early wake-up call, Gibson said she isn’t tired at all.
"You're ready for the day because once you're up, your adrenaline kicks in and you're ready to go," she said. "It's tense. You know you've worked so hard for this and then, like, this is your big moment and this is the one time that you get to share what you actually do. So it's really exciting for everybody."
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That excitement continues throughout the day. On her first day of showing, Christenbury won first-place ribbons for all but one of the categories she entered.
"I'm feeling really good. I did not expect all of this to happen," she said smiling. "And it just - it's so amazing to me because I've raised these animals and they're competing at the state level."
The beef cattle shows are happening all day Friday and Saturday in the cattle barn. The animals are judged on a variety of different components, including build and muscle capacity, according to Rhodes.
For Rhodes, seeing his students have this hands-on experience is "exciting."
"Giving the students the hands-on experience that we actually can, is one of the best things that we can do as ag teachers," he said. "A lot of people don't understand what all goes in agriculture. A lot of people don't really understand the industry. So it's great that we actually do educate these young people about the importance of agriculture, where their food comes from, how it's processed, how it's made."