While the exhibitors and their projects have been the stars of the Manatee County Fair much of the week, a young woman across the ring stands out with a shiny decoration on her hat and a leather sash.
Darrylin Cannon, 19, is no stranger to the Manatee County Fair show ring. She competed as a 4-H and FFA member growing up showing beef and swine. Last March, she said she was crowned Manatee County Cattleman’s Sweetheart. It was the first year Cannon was eligible to compete in the county’s decades-old tradition.
The competition, and the crowned Sweetheart, is something that young exhibitors look forward to every year, said Michelle Woodham, secretary of the Manatee County Cattlemen’s Association.
At this year’s fair, the Braden River High School graduate is spending the week offering a helping hand in classes where she used to show. Friday night’s beef breeding and showmanship show was no different, though it started an hour behind schedule after the judge was stuck in traffic. Cannon stood comfortably off to the side of the ring, keeping a watchful eye on the exhibitors.
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“I’m kind of here just to help push their animals along and anybody that needs help clipping, grooming, any of that kind of stuff. Mainly just to help the kids out,” Cannon said.
Her efforts to help others in the ring do not go unnoticed.
“It means a lot especially because she’s going to school in Georgia and coming here,” Woodham said. “(The exhibitors) see the Sweetheart in the ring and look forward to it growing up.”
Cannon said her family has been in the agriculture business for years and it’s something she hopes to continue. Currently, she is studying agriculture at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Ga. “It’s good to see all the kids grow up and you’ve watched these kids start from the bottom and work their way up. So it’s really cool to see them all progress and learn as they go,” Cannon said.
But there’s the added benefit of being an experienced and calming presence in the ring. Whether it’s picking up dropped cattle combs, passing out ribbons, or helping loose cattle back to their owners, she stays vigilant, alert and helpful with a smile on her face.
“I have some cousins that walk in and brothers and sisters, so it’s really cool to see them walk in and they all smile and wave at you. I feel like it gives them a comfort zone, they know when they walk in that someone’s there to help them and feel more comfortable,” Cannon said.
Though she said her term will end in March, Cannon has spent nearly a year advocating for beef as part of her Sweetheart duties.
One of her favorite memories from the experience so far was competing against other Florida county Sweethearts at the Florida Cattlemen’s Association Convention.
Results from Thursday’s Steer Show
Grand Champion: Colby Quattlebaum, steer weighed 1,350 pounds
Reserve Grand Champion: Chloe Bunyak, steer weighed 1,250 pounds
First Place Calf: Chloe Bunyak
Second Place Calf: Kylie Duquette
Third Place Calf: Clay Wingate