The 103rd Manatee County Fair offers plenty of competition in livestock, craft categories.
Lakewood Ranch High School’s Madyson Flores said she uses smooth talking and a lot of patience when it comes to working with cows.
Her heifer, Emmy, is the perfect example.
Three years ago, Flores started working with Emmy as a calf and eventually showed her in the Manatee County Fair. She taught her to walk on a lead with a halter and how to stand properly for judges.
Those things don’t come naturally for cows, who are not accustomed to following commands.
Flores often used baby talk to induce Emmy to follow directions and often to spoke to her as if she were a dog.
Now Flores will be showing Emmy for the third year when the Manatee County Fair runs Jan. 17-27.
It’s been three years of smooth talking and patience.
“You have to bond with them,” Flores said. “I become their friend so they feel secure. I keep learning from them.”
Flores will show Emmy as a dairy cow, and now she is working with another calf, Berklee. Both are owned by the Cameron Dakin Dairy, but are leased to Flores.
Flores keeps Emmy, who needs to be milked, at the dairy, but keeps Berklee at her Myakka City home.
She said she loves showing cows and helping younger children learn about raising and showing their animals.
“It’s fun,” Flores said of participating in the fair. “Everyone is learning. Each judge is different. I like getting to help the littler kids. I like watching everyone else learn. Showing cows takes a lot of patience … a lot of patience.”
The fair itself is fun, too. Fairgoers like Flores can watch animal shows, wander through displays of thousands of arts, crafts and photography entries, cheer during pig races, ride on midway rides, feast on fair foods like corn dogs and funnel cakes and see live performances by groups such as Mark Wills and The Yesterdayze Band.
Students in the county’s Future Farmers of America and 4-H programs, however, remain focused primarily on their animals, whether that involves cows, pigs, rabbits or poultry.
R. Dan Nolan Middle School sixth-grader Briley Hudson, 11, will show her calf, Jojo Siwa. She said has been showing animals in the fair since she was 8. She likes the annual costume contest she does with her calves. One year, she dressed up as a fisherman while dressing up her cow as a fish. Last year, both she and her cow held “Eat More Chicken” signs inspired by Chick-fil-A.
“It brings out a different part of me,” Hudson said. “The cows — I feel safe around them and free to be myself.”
She said she likes their personalities. Jojo Siwa, for example, acts obstinate if Hudson is in a bad mood, but jumps and frolics if Hudson is excited.
“Cows are like humans, except they can’t talk,” Hudson said.
Jojo Siwa and Emmy are just two of about 80 cows leased to 4-H and FFA students this year by Cameron Dakin Dairy. Farm owners Sondra and Cameron Dakin said they lease the animals at no charge and provide feed for them to give students experience in the agricultural industry.
“You want to educate kids in the agriculture world,” Sondra Dakin said.