Livestock show brings hundreds of competitors to Jackson County

Suzette Lowe

When Jason Wilson travels with his family to participate in livestock shows beyond Jackson County, he notices something. There are very few kids from this county at any of the events.

“It really bothered me that our kids here were not taking advantage of many opportunities out there to show their animals,” he said.

That concern led Wilson and others to organize the first ‘Passion for the Purple’ livestock event in Jackson County. The show, which took place at the Jackson County Junior Fairgrounds on May 22 and 23, saw entries from eight states. Over 400 animals competed for top honors.

The name, taken from the color of the banner awarded the grand champions of a show, indicates how seriously those that invest their time into raising show animals take their work.

Logan Davis, a 10-year-old from Gallipolis, Ohio, said he has been raising animals his whole life. His entry into this event was an angus steer named Black Mamba.

Logan Davis poses with Black Samba.

“It takes a lot of time and effort,” he said. “I have to really watch to see what the best feed is for him, what supplements to use. It’s work but also fun, until he steps on my feet.”

Wilson says taking care of an animal to make it show-worthy teaches children a great deal.

“Not only does it instill determination and dedication, but it also makes them put the needs of something above their own,” he explained. “Their animals need to be fed, watered, brushed and attended to before they can go play or even go to school.”

For eight-year-old Emma Hill, her pigs, Luke and Spice, have been the focus for the past few months.

“I showed Luke at this event,” she said. “He’s been a character and a challenge. He’s awful stubborn. One day he won’t listen at all and the next day he’s perfect. Spice Girl will go to the West Virginia State Fair.”

Since March, Emma has had to fix her pigs a place to stay and get them used to the whip which is used to nudge the animals in the direction they need to go.

Emma’s mother, Kate Hill, said taking care of the animals comes before school and in the evenings.

“This process, whether she’s showing pigs, cows or horses, has taught her responsibility,” Hill said. “She knows the rule of thumb is ‘If we eat, they eat.’ Emma has grown a lot and learned a lot with raising her animals and showing them.”

Little girl with pig

Emma’s inspiration is her father, Jared.

“He’s shown all over the country,” she said. “I hope I get to do that some too.”

Showmanship takes special skill on the part of both the presenter and the animal.

For a hog, Grady Wilson says the best presentation will win the awards.

The 14-year-old Leroy resident explained that the animal needs to keep its head up and nose out of the ground.

“That’s not always easy,” he said. “They have minds of their own.”

While the process of raising a hog takes a few months, Grady said steers take a lot more time.

“That’s a year-long process at least,” he said. “You have to groom them and monitor them closely. I’ve shown both heifers and steers.”

The process to put on a multi-state livestock show requires a lot of time and help, said Wilson. He said that planning this event has taken nearly a year. Sponsors had to be obtained, judges contracted, prizes arranged and many other minute details had to be addressed.

Wilson said many people deserve credit for pulling off such a huge event.

“I couldn’t have done this without Lisa Hall, my co-director and treasurer, Jared and Kate Hill, Deron Hall, Jonathon and Krista Cummings, Jami and Jeremy Clay, Elizabeth Adams, the Jackson County Commission and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture,” he said. “My wife Alisha has been both supportive and understanding of the commitment this has taken.”

Plans are already being made to continue the event next year.

“The judges were very impressed and offered great suggestions to the kids,” Wilson said. “We learned some things to do better and a little differently. But ultimately, what is more rewarding than to bring this opportunity to our own backyard. My hope is that we’ll have more Jackson County participants next year and our kids here can see the importance of going beyond our borders to show off all the hard work that they and their animals have done.”

Grand champions of the 2021 ‘Passion for the Purple’ were Prospect Heifer (Grant Crum, Hillsboro, Ohio), Prospect Steer (Kaiden Bolyard, Kingwood, W.Va.), Breeding Heifer (Victoria Craig, Connellsville, Pa.), Market Heifer (Kayla Lippert, Burr Hill, Va.), Market Steer (Nick Yocum, Orbisonia, Pa.), Market Hog Prospect (Karlie Kennedy, Seaman, Ohio), Market Goat Prospect (Braiden McCoy, Franklin, W.Va.) and Market Lamp Prospect (Billy McCoy, Franklin, W.Va.).