In the Brown County Youth Fair show arena Tuesday morning, young Ace Whalley grinned as he stood next to a sheep and held a small trophy in the air.
Other youth fair exhibitors gathered around Ace, who is in the first grade at Woodland Heights Elementary School, as Duane Kuhl — a livestock judge from Mason — leaned down and talked with Ace, his own grin as big as the first-grader’s.
This was a special show billed as A Day in the Ring, and Ace was one of 45 young “special ability” participants. Helped by other youth fair exhibitors, the Day in the Ring participants walked sheep around the arena, and each one received congratulations and some one-one-one encouragement from Kuhl, who did not actually judge the animals or critique the young exhibitors.
The participants — some smiling and grinning, others quiet and shy — received a trophies and rosettes, and posed with their sheep for photos.
The Day in the Ring show meant an interruption in the other animal judging, but the shouts and cheers of spectators indicated that no one minded the delay.
“I just think it’s an awesome experience for the kids to have something like this out here,” Kuhl said. “There are no losers. They’re all winners. They respond to me and we just have a great time.”
A Day in the Ring debuted at the youth fair last year.
Brown County Extension Agent Nick Gonzales, who helped organize the event, agreed with Kuhl that all of the participants are winners.
“A Day in the Brown County Show Ring — the purpose of the show was to give youth with special abilities an opportunity to participate in the Brown County Youth Fair,” Gonzales said. “A lot of them don’t have that opportunity to do that and the means to do it. We wanted to have this day where they could come in, and we had our other 4H and FFA youth come out as volunteers, and just give them that experience.”
The show was sponsored by the Farm Bureau, the youth fair, the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension and Larry Neaves and his wife, who provided trophies, Gonzales said.
“No losers,” Gonzales said. “All those kids are winners. They come out here and they participate, and they get into that ring, they’re holding that sheep.
“All those kids are champions in all they do and in life in general.”