INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Though she was one of the champions being honored Saturday morning at a special luncheon at the Indiana State Fair’s renovated Coliseum, Alex Raute gladly held a couple other contestants’ cameras and cell phones to photograph them with their families in front of the Celebration of Champions backdrop.
"He has been unbeatable all year long," the 16-year-old Carmel High School junior said of her December-born Grand Champion Market Lamb, Ralph. Prior to last week’s Grand Champion 4-H Drive in the Coliseum, she explained he’d been racking up placings at jackpot shows all season long, perhaps most notably at the Willoughby Futurity Show – and also as third-place Overall Market Lamb at the state fair.
Raute has been showing for five years in 4-H but has been around livestock since she was a little girl. Her mother and aunt (Tammy and Kristy Pingel) showed cattle and sheep when they were girls, too. She does not live on a farm, but shows 4-H animals as part of a group working with animals from Greensburg farmer Randy Hill’s operation, just as her older sister Samantha did.
She said the group hasn’t won a Grand Champion title at the state fair in 20 years, but has taken home some Reserve Champion awards. "Being able to get over that ‘hump’ is huge," she said.
Greenfield pork producer Heather Hill opened the luncheon to Raute and the other Grand Drive champions, along with their families and sponsors, by invoking the 75-year history of the building in which they dined. "Welcome to the Coliseum and to the floor where hundreds of champions have walked before you," she said.
Justin Armstrong, director for the State Fair Foundation, explained the Aug. 4 Grand Drive was broadcast live on the Internet and viewed nearly 10,000 times by users in 46 states.
"We have an absolutely bright future" in Indiana’s youth, he added. "Agriculture is the foundation of the Indiana State Fairgrounds, and it always will be."
Another of those bright young people is Abby Taylor, 17, a senior at Norwell High School. She and parents Mike and Taneca, from Austin, help care for a 150-sow herd. In fact, she helped her dad pick out her Grand Champion Market Barrow, Percy. Born in January, the 277-pound hog helped her grab the title early last week.
They used to show cattle, but she noted, "Pigs are more fun and relaxed than anything we’ve had." Her three sisters also show Turner & Taylor Show Pigs in 4-H; in fact, Kaila Taylor won Champion Overall Gilt at the National Junior Summer Spectacular in Louisville last month.
Abby Taylor said she has been showing since she can remember; Taneca noted she was practically still a toddler when she started. Though she’s getting ready to start her senior year of high school, Taylor said she will start part-time at Ivy Tech as well, taking ag business classes with an eye toward transferring to Purdue University. At this point she wants to work in pharmaceuticals or something related after her degree.
Other Grand Drive champions are as follows:
Eryn Schinbeckler of Whitley County, Reserve Grand Champion Market Lamb, and fourth and fifth Overall Market Lambs; Jordyn Leininger, Kosciusko, sixth Overall Market Lamb; Jordan Stillwell, Clinton, seventh Overall Market Lamb; Brooke Bowen, Wayne, eighth Overall Market Lamb; and Logan Tressler, Rush, ninth Overall Market Lamb;
Jared Templin of Kosciusko County, Champion Dairy Steer; Cole Wilcox, Lawrence, Grand Champion Steer; Nathan Hayden, Jasper, Reserve Grand Champion Steer; Braydon Poulson, Huntington, third Overall Steer; Ross Brumbaugh, DeKalb, fourth Overall Steer; and Robert Rogers, Noble, fifth Overall Steer;
Luke Wechter of Noble County, Reserve Grand Champion Market Barrow; Wyatt Martin, Monroe, third Overall Barrow; Lacie Logan, Tipton, fourth Overall Barrow; Chase Cassida, Montgomery, fifth Overall Barrow; and Jada Johnson, Huntington, sixth Overall Barrow;
Elizabeth Michel of Wabash County, Grand Champion Meat Goat Wether; Sydney Mitchell, Boone, Reserve Grand Champion Meat Goat Wether; Merisa Walter, Huntington, Grand Champion Meat Pen of Rabbits; and Mallorie LaGard, LaPorte, Grand Champion Meat Type Chicken;
Noah Roy of Tippecanoe County, Grand Champion Commercial Waterfowl; Zachery Brazel, Noble, Grand Champion Garden Exhibit; and Morgan Marasch, Morgan, Grand Champion Cache of Honey.
It’s kids such as this that Dave and Danita Rodibaugh of Rensselaer like to help by being one of the sponsors of the Celebration of Champions. Danita said she and her husband were both 10-year 4-Hers, as were their children – and a grandson just began his first year in the organization. They donate to the Indiana 4-H Foundation as well.
"The life skills you gain and the opportunities for leadership it gives you … It’s served me well," she noted.
"We are very lucky that we have the opportunity to have the memories and spirit of this place" in which to compete and celebrate, said Cindy Hoye, executive director of the State Fair Commission. Now that the champions have won, she told them, "I want you to take time to pay it forward" to others – whether helping fellow 4-Hers back home, volunteering at their county fairs or even helping out at the state fair.
"Think about how you can continue to make an impact on the 4-H livestock competition."