Rural youth shined at Gold Country Fair

By: Gus Thomson Gold Country News Service
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For the hundreds of farm, 4-H and Future Farmers of America youth in Placer County, Auburn’s Gold Country Fair this weekend was the place to be. Bringing everything from guinea pigs to pigs to cattle to the fairgrounds, they competed for showmanship prizes, offering their animals for bidding in the heart-pounding Junior Livestock Auction, and sharing their love of raising farm animals with the 30,000 to 35,000 spectators expected at last week’s fair. Seth Washman of Meadow Vista is an 18-year-old with a barn holding as many as 120 rabbits and a dream of becoming a teacher one day. Washman’s also a champion, winning top prizes for his market rabbits at both the Gold Country Fair this year and at the California State Fair. Now a Sierra College student in his last year competing as a 4-H member, Washman speaks with authority and passion about rabbit raising — something that’s more 24/7 than 9-to-5. He has raised them for 11 years. “You learn a lot about responsibility, time management and keeping track of financial records,” Washman said. Nearby, 17-year-old Billy Bullard of Roseville’s Dry Creek 4-H was looking forward Friday to a successful auction that would also provide some cash in his coffers for college. He has two pigs weighing 230 pounds and 260 pounds. Clubs, businesses, organizations and individuals participate in the auction, purchasing swine generally for around $4 a pound to help youths recoup their expenses and provide a little extra for future schooling. “Things can get a bit hectic at the auction but I’m used to it,” Bullard said. “I’ve been doing this since I was 9.” Pete Thompson, president of the Auburn Fair Boosters, said the highlight of the fair for participating youngsters is the livestock auction — where a simple chicken can scratch out a $250 bid. “It’s where kids aspire to be all year,” Thompson said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to show their animals.” At 119 pounds 16-year-old Alyssa Ruiz of Lincoln said she can handle her 1,155-pound market steer Casper. At auction time, beef cattle like Casper — this year’s reserve champion bred-and-fed market steer — can fetch more than $2,000. Like the others, Ruiz plans to use the money to further her education. She’s eyeing the medical field and University of California at Davis. “It’s a great experience to be with the animals and learn responsibility,” Ruiz said. The animal barns and pens are some of the most popular destinations for fairgoers. Gold Country Fair CEO Greg Hegwer said the livestock areas provide an opportunity for spectators not only to get in touch with the rural side of the county – but also meet some really good young people. “The 4-H and FFA kids are the best kids in the world,” Hegwer said. “And this is from someone who has had 35 years of fair experience. They grow up to be some of the best citizens you can have.” Hegwer cited one prison survey that found the smallest percentage of those incarcerated had belonged to 4-H. Reach Gus Thomson at