While winter break means an escape from the halls of education, youth across the county have still been hard at work. They are preparing to showcase their work Jan. 11-12 at the county youth fair. 

Their efforts are something that began many months ago, according to Marty Starnes, Somervell County Youth Fair Association president.

"Most of these kids get their animals in the summer and have been taking care of them since June or even earlier," Starnes said. "They have a lot of time and money invested in the animals."

They are preparing to strut their stuff inside the arena while vying for coveted awards and grand champion and best of show honors.

Ultimately, the youth, elementary through high school students, hope the fruits of their labors will add up to big returns at the annual auction and win them bragging rights, as well.

But preparation for the county show is not all about the blue ribbons and big bucks, it is about taking the bull by the horns, Starnes said.

"These kids work really hard and learn a lot about responsibility," Starnes said. "They learn pretty quickly that it's a job and not something they can just walk away from or something mom and dad will do for them. Most of these kids do the majority of the work and that's something that's expected in most families."

Whether they are showing off swine, sheep, goats, steers, heifers or even poultry or rabbits, the projects take commitment.

"That means getting up at 5 a.m. to feed before school and returning after classes to care for their animals and make sure they are ready for the show," Starnes said. "If they don't make a commitment to work with their animals four or five days a week, the animals won't be ready." 

Due to the hard work, dedication and continued support, the annual event remains successful.

"The kids continue to work hard and the community has always offered a lot of support," Starnes said. "We are hoping for another successful year."

Animal projects will hit the expo center's main arena at 8:30 Friday, Jan. 11, with swine, sheep and goat judging. Rabbit and poultry judging will begin at 8:15 a.m. the following day followed by the Market Steer show at 10 a.m. The Livestock Premium Sale will begin at 2 p.m.

But the fair is not just about animals. It's also a place for crafty competitors to show off their food, clothing and arts and crafts exhibits. Those projects will begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11, and the food auction will begin at 12:30 p.m. the following day.

Larry and Judy Higgins will once again serve up a catered lunch and community support, featuring Hammond's BBQ. Community members who sign up as auction buyers are treated to the free meal while others are invited to dine for a suggested donation.

Individuals and group contributors who want to donate funds to county youth but are unable to attend the event or unable to purchase an animal on their own may do so by dropping off donations at the county extension office, located at 1405 Texas Drive behind the expo center. Donations may also be mailed to Somervell County Youth Fair Association Buyers' Pool, P.O. Box 893 Glen Rose, TX 76043 or donated at the fair.

For more information, contact Starnes at (254) 396-0874, Vice-President Todd Cantwell at (254) 396-6823 or Treasurer Craig Dodson at (817) 279-2058.