It's not every day an entrepreneurial teen makes $20,000 from a single business transaction, but at the Douglas County Junior Livestock Show, that's known to happen. The event, which each year …
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It's not every day an entrepreneurial teen makes $20,000 from a single business transaction, but at the Douglas County Junior Livestock Sale, that's known to happen.
The event, which each year generates thousands for local youth to put toward college tuition, 4-H projects and to boost fair scholarship funds, will this year celebrate its 60th anniversary.
“The livestock sale is basically the pinnacle for the exhibitors, of their projects,” said sale director Phil Riesselman. “Everybody who has a livestock project in the fair, their goal is to get into the sale. Not everybody gets to do that.”
The sale concludes a long week of prepping animals for the fair and entering them in the livestock shows. Animals that place fourth or higher are entered into the livestock sale, which takes place the last Friday of the fair. This year that's Aug. 2. On average, the sale comprises 110 to 120 animals and roughly that many exhibitors.
The sale is broken into two parts — the first where all proceeds from an animal's sale go toward the 4-H exhibitor and the second where proceeds go into a scholarship fund. Buyers are sometimes individuals and sometimes companies, and often bid an animal up to far more than market value. The sale committee collects 6% of proceeds to cover event costs.
Longtime volunteer Betty Thomas' husband was in the first livestock sale in 1959. He sold his grand champion steer in the fledgling event, which at that time only included 18 animals. The steer sold for $504. The grand champion steer at the 50th anniversary sold for thousands. In total, the 2018 Junior Livestock Sale generated $461,000.
Ethan Summervill, 17, a rising senior at Douglas County High School, doesn't come from an agricultural background or family. When he wanted to start showing animals at the Douglas County Fair & Rodeo, his parents footed the bill his first year running. After that, paying for the livestock, their feed and other supplies was up to Summervill.
The money he makes during the livestock sale funds the next year's 4-H animals. He shows sheep and poultry and is involved in 4-H at the county and state level.
Larkspur resident Dakota Potton, 12, and his sister Makenzie, 9, use proceeds from the sale to reimburse their mother for project supplies, purchase animals for the next year's fair, and any extra proceeds go into college savings.
The 4-H exhibitors also try their hand at networking through the sale. Throughout the summer they invite potential buyers to the sale and mingle with them during a dinner held the hour before start time on the day of the event.
“Last year our mom made little business cards,” Makenzie said.
The number one rule when handing the cards out to buyers? “Shake their hand,” Makenzie said.
For Summervill, showing animals is more than a hobby. It's setting him up for his future career. He plans to run his own cattle breeding or seed stock program after college, which means he raises bulls that other farmers would purchase to breed their cows.
“It's a lot of money to start a cattle breeding program,” he said. “It's a lot of work to get into if you weren't born into it.”
He plans to sell his stock and assets after this year to pay for college. He's entered in 35 shows during the 2019 fair and is bringing eight animals.
Former fair board member Bruff Shea said the livestock shows and sale provide ample life lessons for the kids.
“In the real world you're not getting anywhere near that kind of money,” he said, noting buyers bid more than market value. “But you learn how to budget your money and costs.”
He also recalled how the sale galvanized the community in past years when tragedy struck 4-H families — the death of a child in one instance and another accident that placed a child in a wheelchair.
“You wouldn't believe how the community steps up and pays $15,000, $20,000 for the kids in that tragedy,” he said. “It makes the hair stand up on your neck and bring a tear to your eye.”
Looking back on 60 years, Riesselman said the sale is a tradition the county should be proud of.
“I just think it's a huge compliment for our buyers, first of all, that they've allowed this sale to continue and grow as much as it's growing,” he said. “It's a huge statement for our exhibitors bringing the quality that they've been bringing.”
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