PALMETTO -- For the last 40 years or so, Gordon Johnson has judged the goat show at the Manatee County Fair. For the last 25 years or so, he's driven down to Palmetto from Interlachen -- about 60 miles east of Gainesville -- to participate.
"They asked me, and I keep coming back," he said Tuesday night.
An event that started about 40 years ago as an exhibit because there weren't enough goats for a full-blown competition, boasted 84 goats this year, the 100th anniversary of the very first Manatee County Fair. Students competed in three levels of showmanship and also by age and breed of goats. As a well-worn competition judge, Johnson said he's been able to expand his style through the years, trying to have more fun and more interaction with the competitors.
"I try to make it teaching as well as judging," he said
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During the showmanship portion, students are judged on how well groomed their goat is, how the students handle the goats, and if the students are proper
ly dressed, said longtime organizer Judy Anderson. A big part of judging is based on the relationship the students develop with the goats. Unlike most of the cattle and swine, the goats are unlikely to be sold at the fair. Although fewer goats are shown compared to pigs and cattle, Anderson said 84 is a pretty good number.
"They're pretty popular now," she said.
Maria Segura, a fifth-grade student at Palmetto Elementary School, won first place in showmanship for her age group with her goat My-Lilly.
"My mind was blank," she said. "I was surprised."
Goats can be stubborn, Maria said, and some goats are just wild.
It was Maria's first time winning a first-prize ribbon for showing an animal.
And although Maria was new to winning a first-prize ribbon, the Seiler family of five was no stranger to ribbons at the goat show. The family, originally from Zimbabwe, now lives on a farm in Myakka City and have been competing at the fair for the last four years. Matthew, 18, Jason, 17, Joshua, 16, Faith, 14, and Zachary, 13, have all competed many times at the fair, but the sibling said, they're not looking to compete against others.
"The biggest competition is between us," said Matthew, a Lakewood Ranch High School graduate.
On Tuesday, Zachary won a first-place showmanship prize in the 11 to 13-year-old age group. Joshua won a second-place showmanship prize, Faith won a second-place showmanship prize and Jason won a blue ribbon in the 14 to 18-year-old age group. Because he had graduated, Matthew did not participate this year.
Although awarded a blue ribbon on Tuesday, the siblings pointed to Jason as the best in the family.
"It's not only in the showing," Matthew said of his brother. "He knows all of it."
Jason came in sixth place in a national competition last year.
"I've done a lot of research," Jason said.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.