The All-American Dairy Show is not just a show

The All American Dairy Show is not just a show.

Picture this: You’re in your later years of 4-H and your whole life it seems you’ve been showing cow at your local fair. You can remember showing at the All American Dairy Show when you were younger, only your third 4-H year, but that seems like an eternity prior. You’ve watched various cow shows with the big name cows and learned their names at dairy bowl almost like you know the names of your own herd.

When your favorite cow, you realize, has been doing pretty well and as soon as your parents announce that the family is going to participate at All American you know exactly who you’re taking along. In the time before the show, you let out a sigh of relief when the vet announces your cow has no ring worm and is completely healthy, give multiple baths to get that tail and knees as white as you can, and clip so she’s looking nice and clean.

You help pack up the truck and trailer and have your belongings packed for the couple days you’ll be staying. The drive up you create best case scenarios in your head; winning the classes, big name herd owners asking you to show for them next year, crowds gathering around your cow, and so on. When you get there you keep a level head while unpacking and setting up. Once everything is finished and the cows are fed, you sit on the show box and let the excitement take over. You’re walking around while your sibling is back monitoring the cows and feel in awe when your eyes meet various cows and heifers you know have a good chance in winning their class. You also note which sires have been used and are already planning who you’ll breed your cow to when she’s in heat next.

While feeding, washing, and milking, you pretend you’re working for the herd you most admire and stand proudly with your cow. You’d raised her since she was born, taking extra time to make sure she was fed well and kept in the best conditions to help her grow better.

The night before the show you’re up late until your shift is over for watching the cows and you finally get to go to sleep, exhausted from the past couple days. Your cow is in the process of bagging up and you hope for the best. The barn is as quiet as it’ll get—multiple fans running, radios playing a mix of genre, a dull chatter that’s sometimes overcome with laughter, and cows and heifers occasionally mooing.

When you wake up groggy you immediately get to work, full of anticipation and excitement for the day. The sound of clippings is accompanied by the smell of show sheen and clear magic like a cloud in the barn. Everyone is out and about, bringing animals to and from the wash rack or chutes to have top lines done. You’ve been practicing top lines for a few years and now your skills are being put to the ultimate test. The milking cows are a little later in the show, but you’re already in your show whites and helping your siblings with their heifers.

At last the time comes where you’ll be in the next group to be called to ringside. You fluff the tail and spray another coat of show sheen one last time before putting the show halter on and walking your cow to the arena with the others. It’s a bit of a walk, but when you get to the arena you can’t help but to smile.

You walk your cow in line and prepare to show. You scratch her neck until it’s your turn to pull her into the ring, holding both her and your head high. You keep your eyes on the judge and concentrate on making sure your cow is walking evenly and not to stretched out, as you’d practiced. You answer coolly when the judge asks about when she was fresh, having pride in how well her udder is looking. Disappointment rises when one by one it multiple cows are pulled in and it feels as if you’ll never get picked until you do, and, although you’re not first, you’re not last. With seeing the photographers around the ring taking pictures, along with the amazing competition, you feel big.

Leaving the arena, you have the showmanship competition ahead of you and you’re ready to do it again, to show off what you’ve been working on for years.

To those in 4-H and FFA, the All American Dairy show isn’t just a show. It’s where those who are younger get to go and be like the professionals and owners of famous cows they look up to and aspire to be. It gives them a chance to learn more as a cow owner, along with strengthening their pride in being a part of the dairy industry. Members of 4-H and FFA constantly look forward to shows, having something to give motivation to finding the right sire to match with their cow and work with the calf to get it to its full potential. Having show’s like the All American Dairy show is more than just a show to 4-Hers and those in the FFA, but also a way to teach and aid them in growing in their dairy knowledge, providing a way to cultivate future farmers that are passionate in what they do.

Abigail Risser is currently 18 years old, and a senior at Cedar Crest High School. She resides in Lebanon County on her family’s 80 cow dairy farm. Abby enjoys showing cattle and helping on her farm. She is a member of the Lebanon County Livestock 4-h Club and the Lebanon County Junior Holstein Club. Abigail is going to be attending Millersville University in the fall, with a major in English and Secondary Education. Her extracurricular activities include Orchestra, which she is a member of the Chamber Orchestra and Pit Orchestra at Cedar Crest, and soccer. 




The All-American Dairy Show

The All-American Dairy Show. For anyone who has been there, those words alone bring a flood of memories and experiences: exultation, joy, laughter, or sometimes even sorrow, disappointment, and sadness. The time you placed higher than you’d thought but exactly where you’d hoped, the time your cow got sick and didn’t make it to the ring, or did make it but you knew there was hardly a reason to go because of how she was feeling. From our first show calf until we can’t show anymore, Harrisburg holds hopes and dreams, and once bitten by the Harrisburg show bug it becomes home for that week in September and if we, for whatever reason, can’t make it, we get homesick for the show, longing to be there.

The week of the All-American, or simply Harrisburg, as it is referred to lovingly by native Pennsylvanians, is unique among all other shows. It’s far different than a county fair, because it is bigger, better, and national; you see the friends there from other counties and states that you may not see any other time of the year. Different than other large shows; it’s the first stepping stone on the way to Madison. It’s (usually) warmer than Madison, and somehow the atmosphere is different than at Madison or Louisville. Though it has been months since Harrisburg, the memories are still as fresh as if we had come home yesterday, and that’s not just from this year but from all the years I’ve been there and they mingle together in a brain file marked Harrisburg that is visited often throughout the year as motivation, encouragement, and inspiration to remind us why we put all the work into this insane, amazing passion of showing cows. And it comes at the oddest of moments; a story that begins with, “This one time, at Harrisburg”, the hopeful mating we make for a cow, the moment a calf is born and you analyze and think maybe she has a shot at being good enough to go. You walk into a restaurant and it brings back a funny Harrisburg memory, or you log 20,000 footsteps and your feet are sore and you think “This feels like Harrisburg”, you never know what will bring back a Harrisburg memory. And the memories we make and friendships we form are indelible and lasting evidence of the bonds made at Harrisburg; scroll through Facebook and think about how many of those friends were met at Harrisburg- probably a third of mine were.

Harrisburg has so much to offer; not all of our memories are of the show itself. Judging, showmanship, meetings, the exhibitors banquets, all of these make up parts of Harrisburg too. And let’s not forget the toasted cheese sandwiches and milkshakes because Harrisburg has the best, they’re just better there than anywhere else.  The early mornings, the late nights, bedding, washing, feeding, clipping, and everything in between all adds into the equation that makes Harrisburg special. It’s the people, the exhaustion, the passion and work ethic that makes a person so proud to be there and willing to work as hard as they can and put in as many hours as needed to make sure they do the best they can to get their cows ready. The first time I was there, I got lost among the barns and halls; now I can give you a map and direct you exactly where you need to go right off the top of my head. When I first went there, I felt like everyone there knew more than I did, that they belonged there and I didn’t; but I don’t feel that way anymore, we’re all equal, doing the best we can with the cows we are proud of. Yes, some of those cows are better than others, and I have yet to win a class, but that just gives me something to strive for, a goal to reach and a reason to work, every day, to have better cows that are ready for the next time Harrisburg comes around. It’s hard to explain Harrisburg to someone who doesn’t show cows, but there’s just something about that show that sets it apart from all others. Maybe it’s something about the people who show cows, or maybe it’s just Harrisburg, but when you leave there, no matter how tired you are or how your cow placed, you can’t wait to come back next year.

Rose Morian is a farmer’s daughter, milkman’s wife, former 4-Her, and author of the column Rose’s Ramblings in Farmshine. When she’s not writing she is working on her family’s farm, adoring her Boxer and Boston Terrier, helping coach the county dairy judging team, or any number of other farm things. She was 1st Alternate Red and White Queen in 2013, when she had 2 cows nominated Jr All-American, one of which was Honorable Mention Jr and Open All-American. Rose owns and shows Holsteins, Jerseys, Red and Whites, and Brown Swiss, having shown a homebred representative of each breed at All-American over the years. After her first time at the All-American in 2005, Rose has been attending Harrisburg faithfully since 2007. Many of her fondest memories and best friendships have started at Harrisburg.