PALMETTO -- With her large family rooting her on, Sha'La McMillan, 14, of the Palmetto High School FFA, took first place in the senior division of Poultry Showmanship at the Manatee County Fair on Friday.
Showing a white Leghorn hen named Snow, Sha'La edged Sarah Reif, 15, of Southeast High, who came in second in the senior division, and Rebecca Keefer, who finished third.
In Intermediates, Chloe Bunyak took first, followed by Nicholas Limoncelli and Cyrus Penderson.
In Juniors, Isaiah Allen took first place ahead of Bailey Henderson.
There was also action Friday in the nearby Mosaic Arena with the beef breeding show. The beef competition did not finish by press time.
A standing room crowd estimated at 1,900 also packed the Main Stage to hear country music great Marty Stuart.
"I stuck my head in for a second, and
Marty sounded just as fantastic as he did in the old days," said Fair Manager Dan West.
Back in the poultry barn, where 72 poultry handlers competed for ribbons, the victory was another in a string of achievements for Sha'La, who paints her goals in white paint on the blue walls of her bedroom on 16th Street West in Palmetto.
So far Sha'La has painted:
Becoming the first girl in the history of Palmetto High School to play football. She played defensive end on the freshman team this year.
Play the saxophone in the Palmetto High band. She is currently in the band.
Excel at FFA at school. She spends all her free time with the school's livestock.
Become a stellar track and field athlete at PHS, including throw the shot put. She is trying out this year and wants to substitute track and weight lifting for football.
Clean and jerk 250 pounds in weight lifting. Not yet.
Keep her grades up. She has all A's and B's this year.
Go to the University of Florida, study zoology and work with large animals at a zoo. She's on target.
"Ever since I was little my mom told me to do better than she did," Sha'La said. "I want to be more than the regular female having two jobs and trying to make it in the world. I want to be accomplished."
Try as she might, Poultry Show Judge Lisa Gardner could not trip up Sha'La. At one point Gardner handed Sha'La's hen back to her tail first, to which Sha'La correctly replied, "Could you hand her to me head first, please?"
As everyone should know, a chicken should always be presented head first. Sha'La passed the test.
Sha'La also correctly named the parts of a chicken, which include cushion, shank, hock, beak and wattle, and chicken parasites, which include mites, fleas and lice.
"She loves animals, all kinds," Sandra Washington said of her daughter, Sha'La. "She's a very sweet person. But she knows what she wants. She does paint on the walls. She'll put, 'I'm gonna lift 165 pounds today.'
"She worried me for years about playing football and I told her not until high school," Washington said. "When she reached high school I had to let her play, she wanted it so badly. The boys respected her. They had to put three boys up against her to block her. But she is done with football now. She wants track and field now."
New to Manatee, Hoosier competes hard
Emma Engel, 11, a Buffalo Creek Middle student, just moved to Ellenton from Sunman, Ind., a small town near Indianapolis.
Emma decided to show poultry to make friends and learn new things. She got both at her first Manatee County Fair.
"I was nervous," Emma said of the showmanship judging where she showed her Silkie Cochin cockerel. "I was asked to name all the parts of a chicken. I think I repeated a few."
Emma was rather stunned at the transformations roosters go through.
"They start off itsy-bitsy and like being held to pecking you," Emma said. "They grow really fast."
Emma's parent's, David and Mary Engel, were beaming with pride Friday.
"The toughest part is rainy days because all of the sudden you are worried about the chickens getting wet," David Engel said.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @ RichardDymond.