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Champions sale thrills first-timers, last-timers
JACKSON -- Excitement is always in the air for young livestock exhibitors who qualify for the Dixie National Sale of Junior Champions, which culminates the annual market animal show each February.
For 34 years, the sale has brought out the best in 4-H and FFA exhibitors and in philanthropic buyers who bid generously to reward some of the state's most responsible youth. This year, 35 market animals brought a total of $183,663. The eight steers averaged $9,268, the 12 hogs averaged $4,985, the 13 lambs averaged $3,343, and the two goats averaged $3,123.
For two of the sale's youngest participants and first-timers, qualifying for the sale was just one more enjoyable part of a fun show season.
Alex Sullivan, an 8-year-old from Mize, was almost giddy in anticipation of taking her 1,259-pound steer into the sale ring. The young 4-Her is following in her two brothers' footsteps in livestock competition and jointly owned the champion steer with her brother, Joey, who was not able to attend the sale.
"I've had fun this year whether I won or not, but it's a lot more fun when you win," she said. "I enjoy showing hogs more than steers."
Also taking part in her first sale was 9-year-old Meagan Rousseau of Magnolia. She has learned a lot since attending her first local livestock event with her pet Pygmy goat, which is not a livestock breed for competition.
Jill Rousseau said she expects her daughter to continue competing after her luck with her first Boer goat, Larry.
"This was her first year in 4-H, and she seems to have a knack for it (livestock competition)," she said. "She has raised this goat on her own because we (her parents) know nothing about goats. Parting with the goat after the sale will be hard, too, but that is also part of the learning process."
Laura Ganzerla of Raymond made her sixth trip with a lamb to the Sale of Junior Champions this year. She has advice for exhibitors like Sullivan and Rousseau.
"You have to work very hard to make it back to the sale, but it's always a very rewarding experience," Ganzerla said.
Gale Chrestman, 4-H livestock specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said buyers and other donors go the extra mile to reward the youth who take part in the 4-H and FFA livestock projects.
"Many businesses and people make financial donations to the scholarship program because they see the benefits for the youth involved," Chrestman said. "They learn responsibility and leadership skills, and they also learn a lot about life in general. They learn about winning and losing."
The Dixie National Sales Committee works all year to raise money and find supporters to fund the scholarship program. This year, 20 high school seniors and five premier exhibitors received $1,000 scholarships during the sale.
"The recipients are exhibitors who did not qualify for the sale this year, but who have shown outstanding work in their livestock projects. The seniors will be able to use their money to attend the Mississippi college of their choice. The premier exhibitors may save the money for their education or put it back into their livestock project," Chrestman said. "It's just one way to encourage these kids who have worked so hard."