Fair makes champions of animals, junior handlers
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Saturday, October 06, 2012
10/06/12 at 7:02 AM
As McKenzie Strickland walked her 1,320-pound black steer into the show arena of the Tulsa State Fair on Friday, people stopped to watch.
"Go get 'em, guys," cheered one man.
"That's the champion cow," whispered a little girl.
The 17-year-old Tecumseh senior had been getting handshakes, hugs and congratulations after winning the grand champion steer category at the Junior Livestock Show the previous night.
"I couldn't believe it," she said. "I just couldn't quit smiling; I was so happy."
The honor brings prestige, along with a big purple banner, plaque and the opening slot of the sale.
Her name will be added to trophies that have been handed down to winners since the 1940s.
After entering the arena, the flash of cameras began about the time the auctioneer began the bidding at $10,000.
A plateau hit at about $20,000, and that's when her mother gave the auctioneer a selling point.
"We need to get her a little more money," he told the crowd.
"She's going to leave here right after this to be homecoming queen tonight, so let's get her some more money for this steer."
The bidding jumped and ended at $35,000, sold to L.C. Neel, who has purchased every grand champion steer from the Tulsa fair for the past 35 years.
Her mother, Jennifer Anderson, said the money helps recoup the cost of buying, raising and grooming the steer.
"It's nice to say that this is all about the banner, but it's nice to get the money back," she said. "It's a blessing to get any money back. I'm a single parent and run a horse sale company, but it's hard sometimes."
Anderson said her daughter's involvement in agriculture has given her more than awards.
"It's given her a lot of confidence, and she's met so many life-long friends in FFA," Anderson said.
"I think FFA can be a life-changing experience. I have a great kid. She's never given me one bit of trouble. I'm very proud of her."
Strickland is the vice president of the Tecumseh Future Farmers of America chapter, which she said has about 200 members.
"When I was a freshman, I was the shyest person you would've meet," she said. "But FFA helped me break out of my shell, taught me a lot about responsibility and helped me with my skills."
Strickland began showing and selling cattle when she was 9.
Through the years, she has picked up championships for breed categories, but this is her first grand champion banner.
Getting an animal ready to show is not easy.
Strickland bought the steer 18 months ago and worked on keeping the right balance of food and a healthy coat.
"You have to wash, dry and walk him for about two hours every night," she said.
Then Strickland worked with him daily on showmanship, getting the steer used to standing at specific angles.
Through the years, Strickland has favored showing heifers for their more gentle nature.
"But this steer I've gotten attached to," she said. "It's going to be hard with him to let go. Steers usually aren't nice. But he's like a pet to me. It's going to be bittersweet when I see him leave, but I am happy I won."
As a senior, Strickland will end her junior livestock circuit this year. She has participated in shows in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Mo., and Louisville, Ky.
She plans to attend the University of Central Oklahoma or Oklahoma State University and pursue a career as a chiropractor, for humans and animals.
"FFA is big for me, and a lot of kids don't get it, but I appreciate they support me doing this," Strickland said.
Tulsa State Fair Junior Livestock Winners
- McKenzie Strickland, Tecumseh FFA, steer
- Whitney Jung, Sterling FFA, hog
- Olivia Mason, Fairview FFA, lamb
- Trent Boles, Asher FFA, meat goat
- Jeron Hamm, Lexington FFA, broilers
Original Print Headline: Champions of the fair
- Jacy Duff, Hobart FFA, steer
- Hunter McKinnon, Lone Grove FFA, hog
- Francis Potter, Merritt FFA, lamb
- Ryley Lawson, Newcastle FFA, meat goat
- Hilton Hurliman, Washita County 4-H, broilers
Ginnie Graham 918-581-8376
Tecumseh High School FFA Vice President McKenzie Strickland walks her grand champion steer to the auction ring at the Tulsa State Fair Junior Livestock Auction on Friday. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Chisolm Kinder shouts out a bid at the Tulsa State Fair Junior Livestock Auction on Friday. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
McKenzie Strickland of Tecumseh receives a hug from family friend Greg Burden as she prepares her grand champion steer for its sale Friday at the Tulsa State Fair Junior Livestock Auction. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
McKenzie Strickland, the Tecumseh High School FFA vice president, hauls away the grand champion trophy in the market steer category at the Tulsa State Fair Junior Livestock Auction on Friday. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
McKenzie Strickland of Tecumseh poses her steer in the auction ring Friday. The steer, which took the grand champion prize, brought $35,000 at the auction. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World