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National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest

The first North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE) in Louisville, Kentucky in 1974 was also the site of the 1974 National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest. This was the first time the contest was held outside of Chicago's giant livestock expo - the International Live Stock Exposition.

The history of national 4-H livestock judging contests - either formal or informal - go back nearly a century. According to Franklin Reck's book, THE 4-H STORY, "In 1920 H. H. Williamson, state club leader in Texas, Cully A. Cobb, editor of "The Southern Ruralist" at Atlanta, Georgia and officials of the Southeastern Fair at Atlanta got together on a plan to hold a national livestock judging contest, the winning team to represent the United States against a team of English boys in London. In England, Lord Northcliffe, publisher of the LONDON DAILY MAIL, offered a Gold Challenge Cup.

"The contest was publicized among state club leaders with the result that 19 state teams gathered in Atlanta on October 19 for the event. For three days, with pencils and scorecards, the club contestants judged beef cattle, dairy cattle, sheep and hogs in the stock pavilions, knowing that upon their placings depended a free trip abroad for the international contest.

"When the returns were all in the Texas team had won. The club members who made the historic trip were Jack Turner of Hill County, Stephen Alva Debnam of Dawson, and Gilbert Weiting of Falls. With them went State Agent Williamson, County Agent H. B. Ross, and I. W. Hill of the Washington Extension Service. In England the Texas team captured the Gold Challenge Cup by defeating the British team.

"The Maryland team won the following year, and again defeated their English competitors. Thereafter, the Southeastern Fair no longer sponsored the International trip, but in 1922 the Maryland team placed first in club judging at the National Dairy Show held in St. Paul. The National Dairy Show had appropriated no money for a trip to England, but the state leaders managed to raise the necessary money within the state, and again Maryland traveled to England and won the international judging contest.

"With a few missed years, the event continued up to 1939, when the impending war called a halt on international club judging. During that time, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Oklahoma sent teams abroad. These friendly invasions under the 4-H banner, beginning in 1920, had their influence on the growth of the English counterpart of 4-H club work, the Young Farmers' Club."

The National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest started as a part of the International Live Stock Exposition held each year in Chicago, and at the same time as National 4-H Congress in that city.

The 1974 Contest was a significant milestone. For the first time the contest was held outside of Chicago's giant livestock expo... the famous International Live Stock Exposition located at the equally famous Chicago Stockyards, was closing. However, a new event had emerged on the scene in Louisville, Kentucky - the North American International Livestock Exposition held their first event in 1974. And, this first expo was also the site of the 1974 National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest... where it continues to be held.

The Fall 1978 issue of the National 4-H Council COURIER newsletter announces that "The National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest will be held in conjunction with the 5th Annual North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky. Scheduled for November 14, the teams representing more than 30 states, will judge beef, sheep and swine classes and give oral reasons. Among the sponsors are Elanco Products Company, a Division of Eli Lilly and Company, which will award U.S. Savings Bonds to the 10 high individuals in the contest."

Ten U.S. Savings Bonds were awarded to 4-H members at the 1978 competition. Participant teams representing 34 states ended up attending the event. State teams competed in beef, sheet and swine judging and justified their placings with oral reasons. Winning state teams, in order, were: Minnesota, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Texas and Oklahoma. Nine points separated the first three teams.Savings bond winners were: Mike Simmon, Kansas, $500; Ellen Eckert, Texas, $400; Susan Lynn Janney, Maryland, $300; Kevin Chase, Kansas, $200; and Brenda Werner, Pennsylvania, $100. Winners of the $50 bonds for sixth through tenth places were: steve Censky, Minnesota; Kari Henderson, south dakota; Tom Chesbro, Oklahoma; John Smart, Mississippi; and Gary Ambrose, Minnesota. The bonds were provided by Elanco Products Company, a division of Eli Lilly and Company. Other awards were provided by the North American International Livestock Exhibition, breed associations, livestock businesses and publishers.

The 1980 National Livestock Judging Contest was held November 17-19 in Louisville, Kentucky. Thirty-five states were represented, with Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina and Indiana finishing 1st through 5th respectively in team competition. The top 10 individual winners received U.S. Savings Bonds from Elanco Products Company. The winners in order, were: Nick Komiak, Rensselaer, Indiana; Lori Pankonin, Lamberton, Minnesota; Leroy Billman, Ostrander, Ohio; Dan Megard, Sherman, South Dakota; Greg Harder, Mountain Lake, Minnesota; John Webster, Bowen, Illinois; Brenda Pankonin, Lamberton, Minnesota; Keith Kramer, Farina, Illinois; Mike Sutton, Kingston, North Carolina; and Karen Bullock, Battleboro, North Carolina.

4-H'ers from 35 states participated in the 1983 National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest held in Louisville, Kentucky on November 14-16. Elgin Watch International, Inc. provided quartz wrist watches to the 4-H'ers with the highest scores in judging beef, swine and sheep classes.

Specific annual historic information on the National Livestock Judging Contest for the past 30 years has not yet been researched, located and written.

4-H Livestock Conservation Demonstration Contest

Another 4-H livestock event was called the 4-H Livestock Conservation Demonstration Contest which began in 1936. An article in the Fall 1969 issue of National 4-H Service Committee COMMENTS reports on the 33rd 4-H Livestock Conservation Demonstration contest which had been held on September 24 at Ak-Sar-Ben, Omaha, Nebraska in cooperation with the livestock show. It was jointly sponsored by the Cooperative Extension Service, Livestock Conservation, Inc. and the National 4-H Service Committee. Previously the event had been held during the National 4-H Congress in Chicago.

Seven states were represented in the 1969 contest: Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Livestock Conservation, Inc, provided awards which consisted of $25 U.S. Savings Bonds to all participants and appropriate leather ribbons. Purple ribbons, the highest awards, went to Carma Rickertsen and Pam Bourn of Lexington, Nebraska, for their team effort titled "Don't Forget Cattle Grubs." They stressed the economic damage caused by the pst, materials and methods which can be used to successfully combat grubs and benefits the individual grower, feeder or beef packer can expect. Mike Nygard of Minot, North Dakota, earned the individual demonstrator award and received a purple ribbon for his demonstration on lice control. He showed how lice can be eliminated from a herd and the efficiencies that result.

Contemporary History

The National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest continues to be held at the North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE) in Louisville, Kentucky. This is the world's largest all-breed, purebred livestock exposition. Ten different species of livestock compete in the exposition, and the purebred beef and sheep events are the largest in the world. For information on NAILE visit the website:

Compiled by National 4-H History Preservation Team.

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