MANATEE -- As Dave Carleson watched his grandchildren showing their cows at the Manatee County Dairy Show on Friday, he couldn’t help but think back to when he watched another group of children do the exact same thing.
“Both my daughters showed and now their kids do it,” Carleson said. “It’s that country lifestyle. A rural attitude.”
For Carleson, passing down that lifestyle to his family is important. Working with cows teaches responsibility and patience, among other life skills, he said.
Carleson’s grandson Dalton Delong, 8, and granddaughter Cassidy Delong, 15, competed this year.
“I like the competition and being able to watch other people do this,” Cassidy said, as she held her heifer Lilly.
Cassidy knows the competition can be tough, but has a positive attitude to “do your best and keep your eyes on the judge.”
Dozens of children and cows competed in this year’s fair event where they were judged on their cows’ appearance, grooming and other criteria.
Many of the students competed with cows from a dairy farm in Myakka and met their animals for the first time in September.
“I showed last year and it was a lot of fun,” said Brittany Conover, 14, as she held her heifer Patches. “It’s sad when it’s time to bring them back.”
Brittany also competed with her cow from last year, Speckles.
Once the students and cows are introduced, they visit their animal about three times a week.
Adam Midgett competed in the event last year and had such a good time, he came back.
“It’s a good experience and it’s a lot of fun,” said Adam, who hopes to work with animals one day. “I want to get into animal biology.”
Adam showed Gertie this year and said the tricky part of the competition is allowing the animal to relax.
“I’ll rub her head to get her to calm down,” he said.
As with any competition, there were a good number of rookies. First timer Alecia Noval, 14, ended up taking home second place in the senior fitting and grooming category.
“It’s a lot of work, but I like it,” Alecia said. “I’d do it again.”