Submitted by: Sandeep Sinha
I was not too keen, and my father was very determined to get us to the Glenburnie United Church on Feb 26, for the Frontenac 4-H Rally. I did not know what to expect and I was probably the only city kid in the Rally.
However, the 4-H folks were very friendly and we quickly got into presentations about the various clubs through which we could do our projects. I was pretty certain that I wanted to do Dairy, but I was a total novice and did not even know the difference between a Holstein and a Jersey.
I came out of the meeting with plenty of enrolment forms, information and was less anxious about what lay ahead. After the Rally, we had our first meeting of the Frontenac Dairy Club. At the meeting, our Dairy leaders explained how the competition season works, leading up to the Achievement Day and the Royal Winter Agricultural Fair.
When we got home we got a follow-up call from Becky Lamendeau, our Dairy leader, explaining in more detail, the work that was expected out of the members and how much practice lead to achievement.
In April, we showed up for enrolment day, and I signed up for the Dairy Club. It was there that I met Natasha Abrams, my Dairy leader, on whose farm, Hickory Acres, I would spend the next six months practicing my showmanship skills with a newborn Jersey calf, named Vaida. I set up my once-a-week schedule with her for showmanship practice, for the next two months.
Once the school year got over, I entered my first competition at Shannonville. It was an eye-opener to see the amount of effort needed to prepare the calf for an event, and I got the judge’s critique, which was very helpful.
I decided to double my efforts to improve my skills, and since the summer vacations had started, I was able to go to Hickory Acres twice a week for the next two months. All that work must have helped, because when I entered my next competition at Lansdowne, I was placed in higher ranks.
That gave me a lot of confidence, and I was now in a better frame of mind approaching the Achievement Day at the Kingston Fall Fair. The Fair exceeded my expectations and I did very well, which then set me up for the Regional Fair at Metcalfe. At Metcalfe, the level of competition was higher and my calf was a bit temperamental, but I placed in the higher ranks.
So then, it was all set up for our leaders to identify which Dairy Club members would represent the best chance for Frontenac 4-H to place in the higher ranks at the Dairy Classic in Toronto. I got my call, and jumped at the chance. I was very grateful for the opportunity, because many members had put many hours into their projects, and to be selected to represent Frontenac was an honour.
So, then we went about approaching sponsors to help us pay for the expense in getting the team over to Toronto, which included hotel, meals, gear and supplies. The whole month of October was spent chasing down sponsorship and checks, as well as, getting last-minute practice.
We finally departed in a convoy for Toronto on the morning of Sunday, November 6. It was an uneventful ride and when we finally showed up at Exhibition Place, we had to do a drive-around to unload the supplies and assemble the stall, before the animals arrived on the second trailer, which was following us, a couple of hours behind.
The next two days were spent in getting the animals used to their new surroundings and keeping them well-rested, exercised, well-fed and watered. Finally, it was show-time, and I had to get into my whites to be ready to lead my calf for the Showmanship category. I was hoping that my calf would not get temperamental, and after I got into the Ring of Excellence, the next 30 minutes just went by, as we went through the presentation. The next day was similar, except this time it was the Conformation category. This time around, there were no butterflies in the stomach, since I knew what to expect, leading up to this moment.
The next few hours after the competition were anti-climactic, but we were not done yet because our stalls had to be judged and we had to make an additional trip to the Ring for the Group of Three event. When we were done, finally, we came back to dismantle and pack the stall into our supply trailer and the animals in the second trailer. As we got on to the road to leave, I felt very sad and empty, and as the lights of downtown Toronto winked goodbye, I fell asleep.