Vail Valley 4-H stars competing in the National Western Stock Show
Faythe, Alex Eichler travel throughout the West to compete in livestock shows
Faythe and Alex Eichler are in another show ring, showing livestock for fun and profit, but mostly for fun because, as their dad, Wayne Eichler, says smiling, there’s not much money in this sort of thing.
This week finds them at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, showing goats along with about 350 other competitors. Faythe and Alex took six goats with them, three each. That’s about normal for most competitors, Faythe said.
Animals misbehave in the show ring, doing things like bolting to run across the arena.
“Anything you can think that an animal can do, they’ll try it in the show ring,” Faythe said.
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Like competitors everywhere doing anything, they wait between rounds. They won’t have to wait long. They checked in Monday morning. Showmanship is Tuesday afternoon. The market show is Wednesday morning. That’s where the grand champion is chosen.
Faythe won her seventh straight grand champion title in this year’s Eagle County Fair and was seventh this year at a national livestock show in Phoenix similar to the National Western Stock Show in Denver. Alex won her fourth straight Eagle County Fair round-robin title.
They learn all the stuff you hope kids will learn: to be a leader, to reach out to those in their community, to help people who need it even if you don’t know them.
“At the county fair you see people who’ve never done anything like this before and could use some help,” Faythe said. “They appreciate it, and they’ll use it in the future and maybe they’ll pass it along to someone else.”
“It teaches you responsibility and to be leaders in our communities,” Faythe said.
Faythe and Alex are out of school this week. It’s not a problem for them or their teachers. Faythe has held a 4.0-grade point average since the sixth grade.
“I’ve never had teachers who’ve been hard noses about it. They know I can do the work,” Faythe said.
Faythe and Alex are road warriors, riding to shows all over the West. In addition to shows all around Colorado, this fall found them at a national show in Phoenix, Arizona, where they competed against more than 300 contestants from 23 states. That was 688 miles one way.
They traveled 610 miles one-way to Billings, Montana, in October for the Northern International Livestock Exposition.
They pass the miles in all sorts of ways. Sleeping in a moving vehicle is one of Faythe’s spiritual gifts.
They could travel further. They have friends on the Front Range who travel to Louisville, Kentucky and other far-flung destinations.
Lots of things determine whether they’ll make the trek. Judges, for one thing. Livestock shows are like any other judged event.
“Certain judges have a certain style, so if you have an animal you think will do well you might be more inclined to enter that event,” Wayne said.
Judges for the Colorado State Fair are announced in July, while judges for the National Western Stock Show are announced in October.
The stock show in Denver is a terminal show. After you walk out of the show ring, you can get a picture if you want. If you’re a grand champion or reserve grand champion (first or second on your division) you’ll sell your animal at the junior livestock auction. If not, it’s loaded onto a truck and you get market price — maybe $400, maybe not. If the animal does win, it’s much more.
“It’s not something you do to get rich,” Wayne said.
Super Bowl of stock shows
The National Western Stock Show is a 114-year-old Colorado tradition. The historic parade trailed through downtown Denver last Thursday, featuring American Furniture Warehouse owner Jake Jabs and Texas longhorn cattle, which is ironic because the only time the stock show folks seriously considered leaving the Centennial State was when Texas was pitching woo and tried to lure it away.
Sure, it’ll drive $120 million in economic impact to the Denver area, which is good, but it will also raise more than $500,000 for the National Western Scholarship Trust, which is better. The trust funds more than 100 scholarships for students studying agricultural sciences, rural medicine and veterinary medicine.
The “Best 16 Days in January” set an opening day record of 57,386 paying customers.
Before it’s done, the National Western Stock Show will host 30 professional rodeo performances, world-class horse shows and the “Super Bowl” of livestock shows featuring more than 15,000 head of horses and livestock, 25 different breeds of cattle and six other species, including miniature cattle, lambs, alpacas, llamas, poultry, and of course goats.
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