Whether an individual wants to admit it or not, at some point in time in their life everyone has been involved in a competition.
It may be to improve upon something in their personal life. Other times it may be a way to establish a ranking between individuals or objects: who can run the fastest or what star shines the brightest in the night sky.
Competition plays a big role in the Missouri State Fair each year. For every area at the Fair that is judged, the rules of competition may vary but there is one element all of the competitions hold true: the Missouri State Fair is an opportunity for young and old alike to determine the best our state has to offer.
“There are two things I look for in all the judges I hire and the ones my livestock superintendents hire,” David Dick, Livestock Superintendent for Fair said. “They have to be consistent in their judging and I expect all of my judges to have the ability to explain the reasons for their rankings.”
Dick said one of the most important aspects to this is that the judges must know the roles for the classes.
“Every class has different rules and aspects that need to be considered when judging,” Dick said. “The best judges know those rules inside and out and have an understanding for both the animal and the individual.
Many of the best judges according to Dick have hands on knowledge of the animal and they have, in many cases, shown at various events themselves.
J.R. Reid is one such individual who has hands on experience in judging multiple breeds of livestock.
Reid has been the Pork Superintendent at the Fair for 13 years and has judged in several county, state and national competitions.
“I’ve judged at nine state fairs, but never in Mo.,” Reid said. “One of the most important qualities a judge can possess is to have established a resume and reputation among your peers that you have the credibility to judge.”
That is built over time according to Reid and is developed by over time and by keeping up to date with the various breeds.
“There are some things that never change in the judging process though,” Reid added. “You want the animal to have the right confirmation and the least amount of faults.
“Secondly, you look to see if the animal will meet the needs of the consumer,” Reid said. “It has to be a good animal for production.”
What many may not realize is the Missouri State Fair allows exhibitors from out of state to compete in the open livestock competitions.
“The Livestock Show at the Fair is the largest show (competition) for many of the exhibitors in the region,” Dick said. “To be named the best in the state not only brings a sense of pride but there is a tremendous value in breeding and marketing that many of the exhibitors can’t find in their home states.”
“Breeders are always looking for the best animals to develop future lines from,” Dick said. “What better place to find that than at the state’s premier livestock exhibition?”
While other states are allowed to enter the livestock shows, exhibitors from other states are prohibited from the Home Economics exhibits.
“We don’t allow outside states to exhibit in our shows, “Lynn Beasley, Superintendent of the Family and Consumer Science exhibits said. “The only exception is if they are military personal who are stationed at Whiteman or one of the other bases throughout the state.”
Despite that difference, Beasley faces similar challenges as Dick does with her department.
“The most important thing is to make sure that we have quality judges with experience,” Beasley said. “This year we have over 500 categories to be judged. I feel I have 21 quality individuals who will be more than capable of doing the job.”
Beasley looks for judges who have experience in their respective fields.
Many of the individuals are current or former FAC’s teachers or people who have experience working in the food service industry, textile and craft industries.
“We cover some many areas,” Beasley said. “I have eight individuals who judge quilts and aspects of that field, but I also have to find people who are knowledgeable in leather work or scrap booking, not to mention the food products.
“A lot of my judges come from the University of Missouri Extension Service,” Beasley added. “I use a lot of them in the food judging areas.”
Ironically, because of mandated food regulations by the State, the judges are not permitted to open or consume any of the preserved food entries.
“It’s said to say, but we just aren’t permitted to do that any longer,” she added. “A lot of times people will ask, how do you know it is what they say it is?
“‘Can’t you be fooled by a jar of colored water or something like that?’ she added. “I always tell them if you have a superior judge, they won’t be fooled. My judges know what to look for and how to do the job.”
Each judge is given a scoring sheet with specific guidelines to be followed.
“I ask each of my judges to give positive feedback in the comments section,” Beasley said. “I want them to tell the exhibitor what they did right and some constructive criticism if needed to help the person learn.”
The exhibitors can get their individual scoring sheets returned if they would like to have them.
Dick also asks his judges to provide feedback to the participants to help them learn, but ultimately it comes down to a simple fact.
“With all judging, I hope people remember that the results are one person’s opinion on one given day,” Dick said. “It’s an evaluation as seen through their eyes.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484