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Shyann Reason knelt by her pig "Spaz" for a few private moments Wednesday as she and 92 other 4-H'ers prepared for the 68th annual Wilson County 4-H Livestock Show and Sale.
"I'm going to miss her very much," Shyann said.
Some 80 kids with pig projects and 12 with steer projects are competing in the annual event at the Wilson County Fairgrounds.
Thursday is the big night when buyers arrive at the arena to purchase the animals and support the children ages 9 to 18 who have raised the livestock.
For Shyann, that meant spending 30 to 40 minutes with the animal every day feeding it, watering it, washing it and teaching it to move by her command.
Shyann is a member of the Kickin' Klovers 4-H Club.
Allie Entrikin, 18, a senior at Fike High School, was showing hogs for the last time. She is aging out as a member of the Rock Ridge 4-H Club.
"I showed pigs since my seventh-grade year, but I have done 4-H since the sixth grade," Allie said. "I'm going to (N.C.) State for animal science, and I want to be a veterinarian."
Allie has been around animals a great deal. Her grandparents have horses. She likes dogs and other pets.
She has learned one thing about the show and sale process though.
"I don't name them because then I get attached to them," Allie said.
Participating in 4-H has taught her a lot about responsibility, she said.
"I have really enjoyed it," Allie said. "I love the environment we have. When we have meetings, everybody is really friendly."
Savannah Renfrow, a 10-year-old from the Wilson Wranglers 4-H Club, used to raise hogs for the competition but made the switch to steers.
"I think it is a lot different and is a lot more work," Savannah said. "You have to work with them more."
Her steer, "Buddy Joe," just weighed in at 1,100 pounds, which is a shy of the 1,435 pounds that James Gardner's cow came to when it stepped on the scale.
James Sharp, whose daughter Alyson, 11, is in her second year showing a pig, said the experience has been beneficial for her.
"For a kid this day in age to break with their friends for a day and come out here and work with the pigs is a good thing," Sharp said. "It's a lot of responsibility that they learn."
Travis Edwards, 17, a Fike High School senior, was giving his pig, "Blackie," a good washing before the competition began.
"It's a lot of work, but in the end it all works out and everybody's happy," Travis said.
'ALL HANDS ON DECK'
Jess Anderson, the livestock agent at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension office in Wilson County, said it was a cold morning to start out Wednesday, but all the pigs and cows are in the barn.
"The barn is busy full of people preparing for our competitions that start Thursday morning," Anderson said.
Anderson said a lot of the participating families are "legacy families."
"Their parents or grandparents have been involved in the program, but then we say a lot of those families draft other families to come participate as well, so we have a good mix of old families that have participated for many years and new families that are coming on for the first time," Anderson said.
There is something to be said for the atmosphere of a live auction.
"It's a lot of people in one little tiny sales arena that are all dedicated to the Wilson County communities," Anderson said. "There is lots of support and dedication from the buyer's side, from the community side goes into being in that room that night making sure those kids feel the support of the community in terms of buyer participation."
Anderson said she learns a little more about the history of the popular event with each passing year.
"The more that I get to know the families and the participants, the more that I get excited for the future of the Wilson County 4-H Livestock program," Anderson said.
The money that is raised from the sale of the livestock goes directly to the 4-H'er whose animal they purchased.
"Most of our kids will use that money to pay for the project that they just raised or they will use that to fund next year's project," Anderson said. "The rest of that usually goes towards their college education. We have 14 graduating seniors this year, and a lot of them are using a portion of the funds raised through their participating at the show and sale to further their education."
The North Carolina Cooperative Extension office and the Wilson County Livestock Association join together to put on the annual show and sale. "It's kind of an all-hands on deck for this week for the extension office here in Wilson," Anderson said. "We are the manpower that ensures that the sale runs smoothly and the show runs smoothly. They all pitch in to help."
Thursday's competitions start at 8 a.m. with the market swine classes, followed at noon with the novice showmanship competition for youth under 9 years old. At 2 p.m. the market steer classes will show.
Thursday's evening program is headed up with the awards ceremony at 6:45 p.m.
That will highlight some of the young people who won during some of the competitions on Thursday during the day.
The actual sale will start at 7:30 p.m. sharp.
"We will start with the steers, with champion animals first and then we will roll right into our champion pigs and then continue with the rest of our pigs," Anderson said.
Last year's show and sale resulted in $300,000 in sales.