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Webster County Showcase

County youth show their livestock

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Ava Larson, 16, of Badger, walks her pig, Donnie, around the judging arena at the Webster County Livestock Showcase hosted by the Webster County Agricultural Association on Thursday evening. Larson and the 235-pound Donnie won first in their class.

After Ava Larson’s 235-pound hog, Donnie, won best in class at the Webster County Livestock Showcase Thursday, the two celebrated with Donnie’s favorite treat – mini marshmallows.

The 16-year-old Badger native had been showing swine in the Webster County Fair 4-H swine shows since she was in fourth grade. She had been raising Donnie since shortly after he was born in February.

“Every morning, I get up at 6 a.m.,” Larson said about working with her show pigs. “They all get walked, they all get a bath and their pens are cleaned out constantly to make sure they have nice skin and hair.”

She then has to drive the hogs through the yard to teach them to walk with their heads up and to make sure they are conditioned well.

Larson’s goal is to raise her pigs and do well enough at the county fair and then show at the Iowa State Fair. This year, the Iowa State Fair has been canceled due to COVID-19, so the Webster County Fair was her only opportunity to show off her hard work.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Brookelynn Peterson, 13, of Harcourt, corrals her pigs as they wait for the next judging class at the Webster County Livestock Showcase hosted by the Webster County Agricultural Association on Thursday evening.

Once she’s done showing her pigs for the year, they then get taken to market and sold. Larson said that’s sometimes difficult because she gets “very attached” during those months of working with the swine.

“It’s hard,” she said. “They become like pets — they’re like big dogs. When I walk into the barn and they put their feet up on the pen and they look at you and they’re ready to go. It’s really rewarding.”

Throughout her seven years of showing pigs at the fair, Larson feels like she’s learned a lot.

“I like how much it teaches you, inside and outside the ring,” she said. “Hard work and dedication.”

Larson said sometimes the commitment can be challenging for a teenage girl.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Area teens show off their pigs at the Webster County Livestock Showcase hosted by the Webster County Agricultural Association on Thursday evening.

“Sometimes I just can’t go out with my friends, I have to stay in the barn and work with the pigs,” she said. “It’s not as easy as it may look, but I’ve learned lifelong lessons through showing pigs.”

Larson was devastated when she learned earlier this week that the 4-H and FFA livestock judging events at the Webster County Fair would be canceled due to staff being exposed to someone with COVID-19.

“You put in a lot of work and sacrifice a lot to be here,” she said. “It was just devastating, thinking we weren’t going to have a fair.”

But just a day after the Webster County Iowa State University Extension office announced the 4-H and FFA events were canceled, a group of livestock superintendents stepped up to host an open livestock show for the county’s youth to compete in.

After feeling like her months of hard work were being thrown out with the muck from her pig’s stall, Larson said she was very grateful that the Webster County Ag Association stepped up to host the shows.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Donnie, a 235-pound hog raised by Ava Larson, 16, of Badger, celebrates winning best in his class with his favorite treat — marshmallows.

The Webster County Livestock Showcase hosted by the Ag Association kicked off the fair Thursday morning with a sheep show, followed by a goat show in the afternoon and the swine show in the evening. The beef show will be held Friday.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Swine judge Joel Morrical, of Clarion, right, surveys the hogs being shown during the Webster County Livestock Showcase hosted by the Webster County Agricultural Association on Thursday evening.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Hanna Hicks, 13, of Farnhamville, leads her pig around the arena for judging at the Webster County Livestock Showcase hosted by the Webster County Agricultural Association on Thursday evening.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Michael Eslick, 15, of Dayton, walks two of his pigs to the livestock arena for judging at the Webster County Livestock Showcase hosted by the Webster County Agricultural Association at the Webster County Fairgrounds on Thursday evening.

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