The annual showcase event for local 4-H and FFA students begins this week, but for some it will be just the beginning.

The 61st annual Somervell County Youth Fair’s stock show will be Friday, Jan. 13, at the Somervell County Exposition Center. Exhibitors will check in swine, goats, sheep, cattle and ag mechanics entries this evening (Thursday, Jan. 12), 5-7 p.m.

Grand Champions and Reserve champions will be named in multiple categories throughout the day Friday. On Saturday, the annual Youth Fair luncheon is set for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and it’s open to buyers along with exhibitors, parents and other family members. The animal premium sale, which includes about 120 lots (animals) starts at 2 p.m. Saturday and usually takes about three hours to complete.

Categories include Steers, Swine, Lambs, Goats, Chickens, Rabbits, Ag Mechanics and Food.

Blake O’Quinn, Glen Rose High School’s ag teacher for five years, noted that the event is special for all of the entrants.

“The Youth Fair’s kind of a showcase for what they have been working on,” he said. “This is their moment to shine, and they usually do well. It’s been a good thing to be part of it. They don’t take it lightly.”

Blake O’Quinn’s wife, Kayla O’Quinn, treasurer of the Somervell County Youth Fair, also emphasized the hard work and long hours put in by the exhibitors.

“The Youth Fair is a really big deal for the kids of Somervell County,” she said. “Some of these kids have been working with their projects for close to a year now. That takes a lot of commitment and a lot of hard work, and this is their chance to show that project off and possibly make a little money to help pay for future projects and/or add to their college fund.”

Kayla O’Quinn noted that some entrants will choose to go on to compete at “major” stock shows in cities such as Fort Worth, San Antonio, San Angelo, Houston and Austin.

“Some of those students and projects will travel hundreds of miles all over the state of Texas competing against exhibitors from across the state. The SCYF gives those kids an opportunity to fine-tune these projects and get some advice from the judges one last time before hitting the road.”

The schedule for 2017 was condensed into only one day of competition from previous years, when the cattle, poultry and rabbit categories were judged on Saturday.

Students can compete starting when they are in the third grade, and continue through their senior year in high school.

Blake O’Quinn said some of the student exhibitors have worked up to 10 months on their calves and steers, and as long as six months preparing their entries in the pig, goat and lamb categories.

“It’s a lot of hard work and effort,” Blake O’Quinn said. “A lot of time goes into it. It does a good job of teaching them responsibility.”

Kurt Henry, ag teacher and FFA advisor at North Central Texas Academy at Happy Hill Farm in northern Somervell County, has 18 students registered this year, showing a total of 36 animals.

“This is their Friday night football,” Henry said. “It’s what they have worked for all year, to exhibit their animals at a competitive level.”

Among the returnees for NCTA at the Youth Fair are Samuel Love, a sixth grader who won the Grand Champion title last year in the breeding gilt division, and Morgan Schaeffer, an NCTA sophomore who won the Grand Champion Ewe category last year.

2017 Somervell County Youth Fair Schedule:

Thursday

5-7 p.m. — Check-in for swine, goats, sheep, cattle and ag mechanics projects.

Friday

7:30-8:30 a.m. — Check-in for food, crafts, sewing, art and ag mechanics projects/job entries.

8 a.m. — Judging for swine.

8-8:45 a.m. — Check-in for poultry and rabbits.

9-11 a.m. — Judging for food, crafts, sewing and art.

9:30 a.m. — Judging for poultry and rabbits.

10:30 a.m. — Judging of sheep.

1 p.m. — Silent auction opens; judging of ag mechanics projects/job entries; judging of goats.

3 p.m. — Judging of cattle.

4 p.m. - Notification of superintendents of livestock entries to be sold.

5 p.m. — Animals not in sale are released.

Saturday

11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. - Luncheon (open to buyers, exhibitors, parents and family members).

Noon — Awards presentation and food auction.

1:30 p.m. — Silent auction ends.

2 p.m. — Livestock premium sale; ag mechanics, projects/job entries released.