It is county fair season around the country, and whether your family is showing this year or in upcoming years, these tips may help bring home that blue ribbon.

Emily Wilmes, an educator with the University of Minnesota Extension who specializes in livestock, offers these tips to help find success in the show ring…

In the weeks ahead

  1. Feed each animal individually. This is the only way to guarantee that each show animal gets the optimal amount of food. If they share a pen, separate and tie them for feedings.
  2. Do your homework. Learn about your animal and the correct care and feeding. Keep your record book up to date. Know the names of body parts and cuts of meat.
  3. Handle your animal. Animals must feel comfortable being handled because they’ll be examined during judging. Begin practicing weeks – or even months – before the fair.
  4. Practice with others. If you’ve only practiced alone, ask a friend to practice with you so your animal can get used to being around other people and following or being followed by other animals

Before the show

  1. Practice in the show ring, if allowed. This will help to familiarize your animal with its new surroundings so it won’t be skittish during judging.
  2. Ask questions. If you’re unsure about any part of showing or how to handle you animal, just ask. County fair officials and judges want to see young people succeed in the ring and are happy to offer help or guidance.

In the ring

  1. Show a clean animal. Entering the ring with straw or manure on your animal may knock off points. Just before entering the ring, do a quick check of your animal to make sure they’re clean; pay close attention to their eyes and ears and carry a paper towel in your pocket. 
  2. Dress appropriately. Research proper show attire for your species and make sure your clothes are clean and fit well so they don’t distract from your animal.
  3. Be focused. Leave your cell phone with a parent and don’t stop and talk with friends or spectators. Keep the focus on your animal.
  4. Greet judges with a smile. Look them in the eye when answering their questions and be aware of their location throughout your time in the ring.
  5. Follow instructions from the judge and the ring people. If an instruction is unclear or you aren’t sure where to go, ask for clarification. Don’t simply follow another contestant’s lead, because he or she may be incorrect.