The kids were confident. Leading the sheep around the ring, they had things under control even when the lambs didn't behave. Not even the stubborn sheep could throw these kids.
"It's hard," says Katherine Simpson, 9, of Lancaster. Before showing the lambs, they must be bathed and trimmed, and if they're uncooperative in the ring, showing can be more difficult. "If the sheep don't walk, I do get nervous," she says.
Her mother, Kathy Simpson, a Garrard Fair Committee Board Member, says, "We've been doing this for about five years now. We live on a farm, so it fits in. We have cattle and sheep. It all rounds out."
Her older daughter, Sarah Simpson, 13, also shows lambs. "I just enjoy the animals," she says. "I've tried to show cattle and they're just too large for me to handle."
"It's something that the family likes to do together."
Family seems to be the unofficial theme of lamb show
Family seemed to be the unofficial theme of the lamb show, with a large number of siblings competing together. Parents and grandparents turned out to see the kids, forming a decent sized crowd despite the fact that lamb showing isn't really a spectator sport.
The children themselves have formed a family-like unit. After spending years together showing sheep and participating in 4-H programs, these kids are a tight knit group.
"You get to know people and make new friends," says Trent Nichols, 15, of Harrodsburg. "Just competing with people is fun."
Along the back edge of the ring, the children played and mingled when they weren't showing. Some of the younger children even rode on the lambs.
Lane Humphrey, 3, giggled and said, "Wow. He knocked me off," before trying to climb back up on his sheep steed. Kaylee Gibson, 5, of Harrodsburg, said, "Giddyup sheepy," as she rode a lamb under her 9-year-old brother Austin's watchful gaze.
Most of the children have been showing sheep for years. Trent started when he was three and Kaylee is a veteran at five.
Sarah started when she was nine. "I did a 4-H program called Lamb Camp They said if we wanted to show at the Garrard County Fair we could. And I did. Now we have our own lambs."
Working with the sheep for so long, the kids develop relationships with the animals, especially if their flock is small. Kaylee is affectionate with her lamb to the point of kissing it on its wooly head.
Katherine's favorite sheep is a ewe named Emmie. She bottle fed Emmie as a lamb and after those one o'clock in the morning feedings, she bonded with the animal.
"They're pretty much like a pet, like a cat or a dog," Sarah adds.
Each child received a ribbon for showing, while the overall champions received large trophies. Yet, for most of them, just working with the animals was reward enough.
"I like sheep," says Sarah. "They're friendly, docile. They're not high strung. They're fun to work with."
The winners of the Garrard County Fair Breed Lamb Show are Cruz Nichols, Grand Champion and Morgan Kendrick, Reserve Grand Champion.