Participants gearing up for this year’s Hill County Fair

Reporter: Ellie Mahan

January 18, 2023

Events scheduled at Hillsboro fairgrounds next week…

Young people throughout the county are preparing their livestock, creative arts and shop projects for next week’s Hill County Fair.

The fair will get underway Sunday, January 22 and wrap up Saturday, January 28, at the fairgrounds in Hillsboro.

The hard work of Hill County students will be on display in a number of competitions next week. A few of those students talked to The Lakelander about what the annual fair means to them.

Cooper Coffelt, senior at Whitney High School and Whitney’s FFA chapter president, will show heifers and steers at the Hill County Fair. He started showing heifers and steers in the third grade and has shown animals every year since then. In the past, he has also shown a pig and entered items in the arts and crafts category at the fair.

Cooper Coffelt, senior at Whitney High School, clips a heifer that he will be showing at the Hill County Fair.

Coffelt said, “Of course I’m nervous. I’ve been working really hard with my animals just trying to get them ready, and I feel like I have a shot at winning something this year.” He thinks of the fair as the moment of truth, when the judges decide who they think is truly the best. He said, “Everybody has a different taste, and you never know what is going to happen.”

Because his siblings showed animals throughout their school years and his parents are both agriculture teachers, Coffelt started going to shows at a very young age.

Coffelt loves showing animals because it brings him a sense of tranquility. “It clears my mind and gives me something to do. I’ve always loved working with animals. It just gives me another opportunity to do that,” Coffelt said.

He isn’t sure what his future holds, but Coffelt sees himself working with animals after graduation. He is considering pursuing a career as a cattle embryologist, an ag teacher or a livestock judging coach.

Coffelt holds an FFA area officer position as sentinel, and he said that FFA has helped him gain some of his best friends and has helped him improve his leadership qualities.

“I’ve always been a part of FFA. It’s something that I love, and it stands for everything that I do. I love agriculture and being with animals. It’s really grown me as a leader too,” Coffelt said. “I truly believe that FFA has shaped me into who I am today.”

Coffelt looks forward to competing at the county level and appreciates the local show’s ability to bring the community together.

Coffelt said, “I really think the county show is great for the community because the majors are in places like Fort Worth, Houston and places like that, and the county fair gives families a closer place they can go to to support and acknowledge the kids for all the work they’ve been doing.”

Brexley Harrison, fourth grader, Tracen Harrison, eighth grader, and Raley McCurdy, freshman, who are all students at Aquilla ISD, pose for a photo after they each won reserve champion showmanship in their age divisions at the Robinson FFA Alumni Show in Clifton.

Raley McCurdy, freshman at Aquilla ISD, also appreciates the supportive environment of the Hill County Fair, and her favorite aspect of FFA is making friends with a group of people who always stick together and have each other’s backs.

McCurdy registered one breeding gilt and two market barrows to show at the Hill County Fair. She also entered photos and crafts into the creative arts competition, and she was set to compete for Hill County Fair queen Saturday, January 14.

McCurdy has been showing for seven years, and she has a passion for animals. She forms a special bond with the pigs she shows, naming every pig that comes into her barn based on their personality traits. She also has a miniature Australian shepherd named Dutton, who likes to hang out in the barn with McCurdy and her animals.

Dutton is the subject of one of McCurdy’s photos that she is submitting for the fair. She has been snapping shots of sunsets, pets, family and friends throughout the year. McCurdy is submitting one photo in each of the four categories: still life, animal(s), nature/scene/landscape and people. The Hill County Fair gives McCurdy, who is considering becoming a cosmetologist or a photographer one day, a chance to embrace her creative side.

McCurdy was selected by the Aquilla ISD administration to represent the Aquilla FFA chapter as a Hill County Fair queen nominee. She said that the individual question portion of the queen competition was going to be the most nerve-racking for her.

She prepared for the public speaking by getting some advice from an experienced pageant contestant. McCurdy said, “My ag teacher has a friend who has done pageants, so she brought her to school, and we sat down with her, and she asked us questions and everything.”

Tracen Harrison, eighth grader at Aquilla ISD, will show pigs at the Hill County Fair. He started showing animals in the third grade, and he enjoys learning new things every time he shows. He said that he feels confident in the set of pigs he is showing this year. Tracen said, “I’m excited right now, but I will get nervous the day of. I always do. Once you get there, you see what is there and what your competition is going to be.”

Tracen and his family will take his animals to show at multiple larger stock shows in places like San Antonio and San Angelo, but for Tracen, the Hill County Fair is the most highly anticipated show of the year. Tracen said, “This is my main show we plan for. It leaves a lot of weight on my shoulders until that day. It gets really exciting really quickly when you get there.”

He knows many of his fellow competitors and the hard work that they put into showing their animals. Tracen said, “I get up there and wonder if I’ve put in enough work to be just as good or better as the people I see up there.”

Tracen described the amount of time and dedication he puts into preparing for the fair by sharing his schedule. He said, “I get off of school at 3:30, and I’m at the barn from 3:30 until dark every single day. On the weekends, we clean out the entire barn, so that takes a whole day at least.” He even stays in the barn late at night sometimes, and he also spends 30 minutes checking on his animals each morning before school.

Tracen is an FFA ambassador, and he believes he has learned a lot in FFA that he will be able to use in the future, including communication skills and responsibility. He said, “Speaking in crowds, I used to be really nervous whenever I was younger, and now I can do it without a problem.”

He expressed appreciation to the buyers who allow him to continue to show and do what he loves. He also thanked Laci Keel, the Aquilla FFA director, for always going the extra mile when helping her students.

Tracen’s mom, Tamara Harrison, said Keel’s family has been instrumental in preparing her children for showing their animals. She said, “They’ve been very, very helpful, and we are extremely blessed to have them at Aquilla, as the leaders of our show team.”

Showing animals runs in the Harrison family. Tracen’s mother and her two siblings showed animals, and so does Tracen’s younger sister Brexley.

Brexley Harrison, fourth grader at Aquilla ISD, will be showing a pig at the Hill County Fair. This is her second year competing, and she is looking forward to getting back in the ring.

Brexley said, “Just seeing how much fun my brother has, I just really wanted to try it, and I turned out to be good. We went to a show in Buffalo, and I won grand champion overall in my showmanship.”

Tracen and Brexley’s mom said she is so proud of them for showing dedication to their animals while also keeping up with their school work. She said that they set their own alarm clocks to go check on their animals every morning.

Tamara said, “Everyone has their own feeding plan. They have to follow it. Just about every week, the feeding plan changes. They have to let me know what they’re needing, and I go get it, but it’s pretty much all of their responsibility.” Tracen and Brexley are in charge of their animals’ feeding, bath, skin and hair procedures.

Tamara said, “We have a better set of pigs going into this year’s county than we had before, and we’ve done a lot of jackpots this season, starting from the time we got them in September. We slowed down a bit in December, to give the pigs a chance to rest and keep them well. Each of the kids gained a buckle this season… It has been fun. They’ve had a rewarding season so far, and we’re hoping that the county will be even more rewarding for them this year.”

See the schedule on page 2 of The Lakelander (or at the link below) for more details about this year’s fair.

Click here for the full Hill County Fair schedule.

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