By M.K. Luther -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Scott Myers judges the Class I market lambs at the Warren County Fair on Thursday. Brittany Jenkins, right, won with her entry. Dennis Grundman/Daily
FRONT ROYAL -- For many members of the local 4-H club, entering county fair livestock competitions started at a young age and then became a rite of passage.
The Warren County 4-H Club presented its market lamb and breeding show Thursday night at the Warren County Fair, with a strong showing of returning participants and former champions.
Stacy Hartman, extension technician, said the market lamb show had 25 registered exhibitors this year. The exhibitor's lambs were judged on marketability, muscling -- the amount of meat on the lamb -- and the showmanship of the individual or owner presenting the animal. The events are open to 4-H members ranging in age from 8 to 18 years old.
Cameron Taylor, 16, a rising junior at Skyline High School, entered four animals in this year's sheep show -- two market lambs, Bruce and Tom, as well as two ewes.
Taylor, a past steer competition grand champion and lamb competition showmanship winner, also raises horses and steers on his family's 5-acre farm in Warren County. Taylor now serves as 4-H vice president and is the Northwest District Ambassador for the state
Taylor's 4-H livestock career began when he was 9 years old and he would lend a helping hand to his older sister, Kathryn, now 22, in readying her stock for competition.
Taylor begins working with the market lambs in the early summer to prepare them for the show. Taylor will train the lambs for two hours a day up until the final hours of the big event, but he said the demanding schedule is well worth the time.
"[It] is a lot of fun -- that is the main thing," Taylor said. "And you learn a lot of life lessons, like responsibility."
Taylor plans to enter his stock in the state fair competition this year, and said the prize money from the shows will be added to his college savings.
The prize money is determined by how much the lambs will garner at the final auction, held on Saturday as the fair wraps up.
Taylor said that letting go of the animals he has raised and tended to for months can be an emotional moment, but learning to let go is another one of the valuable lessons that the competition can impart.
"It is really hard the first year," Taylor said. "After that, you try not to get attached, but it is still really difficult."
For 17-year-old Hannah Vaught, who has been competing since she was 9 years old, raising sheep was something she first learned from family members, and then became a tradition.
"It became a hobby," said Vaught, whose twin sister, Heather, also enters the 4-H shows. "It is something that I really love to do and I grew up doing."