As Micah Sparrow, 8, walked his 2-month-old heifer, Star, around the paddock Saturday, his family looked on proudly.
The young cow’s hooves trotted clumsily in the dirt as the procession around it of 19 “novice showmanship” participants – all under 9 years old – meandered past the judge, some of the cows appearing to be more than 10 times the weight of their young leaders.
Micah’s father, Kyle Sparrow, stood with one of his cowboy boots perched on the lowest rung of a metal barrier outside the showing area, his hands busy snapping pictures with his cellphone. He said his family started showing cows about 60 years ago out of their Fairdale Farm in Owen County. And each member of the family plays a part in tending to the needs of the livestock, something he said bestows a sense of responsibility into children.
“When you got to get up every morning before school to feed and water the animals, it teaches you about responsibility and caring for another living thing,” Kyle Sparrow said. “I’m sure I wouldn’t be the person I am today if my parents hadn’t instilled that work ethic in me.”
The Sparrows were one of several families Saturday at the annual Franklin County Dairy Show in Lakeview Park handing over the reins to a new generation. The day saw showmanship classes ranging from “novice” to “oldie but goodie” with prizes ranging from small sums of cash to blue ribbons.
Clayton Largen and his 6-year-old daughter, Addyson, had just finished showing their 1-year-old cow, Abby, in the novice group. And Clayton Largen was waiting his turn to show in the “oldie but goodie” group.
He said his whole family, from Waddy, participates every year in the showing – even the 3-year-old. Clayton Largen said he’s been coming to Frankfort for decades for the showings, first with his parents and now with his own family.
“It’s something we can do as a family,” he said. “We can all show, and we all work with the calves. Everybody does their part, and it’s not always easy.”
Dozens of participants hailed from neighboring counties.
Jackie Branham, organizer of the event, said that some travel from as far away as the Tennessee line because the dairy show is one of the biggest in the state. And the majority are families passing down a legacy to their young children.
“These are the future of the business,” Branham said.
Danny and Christy Daily, of Winchester, said the showing is part family tradition and part marketing. They traveled into town from their Winhill Farm a day earlier and camped at the stables to get an early start on last-minute touchups to their stock. They said it was the first year in almost a decade that their son, who was 14 when he got them into cow showing, was not present.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” Christy Daily said. “This is the first one he couldn’t make. But we’re using (the cows) as our emotional support animals.”
Branham, who’d previously trained thoroughbreds, has been hosting the dairy show for at least 15 years, and even showed cows many years ago herself. She said she has seen novices start out as small children and then grow up to eventually age out of the classes eligible to win cash prizes. Then they appear at the showings not too long afterward with their own families.
As each of the novices circled the paddock Saturday and led their cattle out of the arena, Branham handed each a blue ribbon and a gift bag of prizes for their participation.
“It’s funny because you see these people show as kids, and now their kids are showing,” Branham said.