He may be a beginner, but there was no luck involved when Bryce Wheeler claimed the grand champion title in Tuesday night’s 4-H Bucket Calf Show.
The 9-year-old Lawrence resident swept the field of 14 with a calm, confident demeanor. Working with his calf once or twice a day for the last few months didn’t hurt, either.
“I’m really happy, I guess,” he said after being awarded the purple ribbon.
In just his first year showing at the Douglas County Fair, Bryce beat out kids ranging in age from 7 to 12 years old.
His secret to success?
“I walk him and wash him,” Bryce said. “And walk him some more.”
Bucket calves are young cows who are orphaned by their mothers and must be raised on a bottle.
Eudora resident Alexis Leonard, 11, is a veteran of the event, claiming Tuesday’s reserve champion title. The show calls for the children to lead the calves around a ring, positioning their legs evenly at different intervals showing obedience. The gig takes a good deal of training and discipline; the calves quickly outweigh their trainers as they grow. Alexis’ calf has gained about 300 pounds in the five months she’s been working with it.
“It helps them mature and it gets them to know what their job is,” Alexis said of showing calves. “Really you’re doing your part, and they’re doing theirs.”
Event judge John Menefee doled out the ribbons Tuesday, though he said the job was not easy.
“We’re not really judging the calf,” he said. “We’re judging the kids and how well they show that calf.”
Menefee, who’s been judging bucket calf shows for four summers, said he enjoys seeing youths so involved in agriculture and livestock, calling it the greatest industry in the country. He said seeing kids excited to be working with the animals was great.
Bryce was one of the excited youths, and his attitude helped land him the top prize. Surrounded by proud family members after the show, he declared his plans for next summer.
Will he return to defend his title?
“Yes,” he said.