Thousands of 4-H kids head to Lamar-Dixon

Staff reports

BATON ROUGE – LSU AgCenter officials say they expect more than 3,000 youngsters to bring nearly 6,000 animals to the competition on Feb. 14-21 during the 74th annual LSU AgCenter Livestock Show next month at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales.        

Competition in various phases of the show will begin almost as soon as the first animals are checked in on Saturday, Feb. 14, and will continue daily through Feb. 21.

By the time 4-H and FFA members reach the state show, they will have competed in parish and district competitions across Louisiana during the first few weeks of 2009. All arrive in Gonzales aiming to be state champions – or at least to earn rewards for hard work and dedication.

Top winners from the show, as well as winners of scholarships and other awards, will be honored during a ceremony and reception at 5 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Lamar-Dixon Center Trademart Building.

A highpoint of the week of festivities will the Market Hog Parish group competition at 6 p.m. Feb. 19. It’s held in a pep rally type setting, giving all parishes a chance to show their spirit.

The parishes each select six hogs and choose a theme for the competion. Competing kids dress up, play music and present gifts to the judges.

Ascension Parish placed fifth in the competition in 2008, and this year has chosen a Jambalaya theme for the event.

While the annual event may be called a livestock show, it’s more about the young people than their animals, said LSU AgCenter Chancellor Bill Richardson.

“This event provides an opportunity for some of the most outstanding youth in the state to receive recognition for their hard work in learning not only the scientific principles that must be mastered but also the responsibility required to raise this wide array of animals,” Richardson said.

The show is also about dedicated parents, teachers, volunteer leaders, 4-H agents and FFA advisers who work with the young people to help them grow as people and responsible citizens.

Richardson notes that some of today’s 4-H and FFA participants will be tomorrow’s civic and political leaders, as well as teachers, doctors, attorneys and other professionals.

The livestock involved represent some of the best examples of the state’s animal industries, which contributed more than $2.9 billion to Louisiana’s economy in 2007.

“Every one of those animals is accompanied by a champion young person,” said Dr. Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor. “In this show, all the participants are winners – whether their animals are named champions or not – because what they’ve learned will benefit them throughout their lives.

The 2009 event is dedicated to Bob Felknor, who is retiring as executive vice president of the Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association.

The dedication is in recognition of his many years of service to agriculture and support of the LSU AgCenter, Richardson said.

Judges at the show determine state champions in various breeds of beef and dairy cattle, goats, hogs, poultry and sheep.

In addition, six young people will be selected to receive Gerry Lane Premier Exhibitor Awards in a competition based on their knowledge of livestock. These annual awards are made possible by a $60,000 endowment donated in 1998 by the Baton Rouge car dealership.

“Because district shows are still going on across Louisiana, we won’t know the final figures on how many kids and animals have qualified for the state show until later on,” said LSU AgCenter livestock show manager Dwayne Nunez. “But we know we’ll have good numbers because of the volume of young people involved in 4-H and FFA livestock projects across the state.”

“We appreciate the continuing contributions of Price LeBlanc of St. Gabriel, who has donated more than $100,000 to the state livestock show over the past 6 years,” Nunez said. “He recently agreed to fund endowment for continuing support, and we expect to make a formal announcement soon.”

4-H is the youth development and outreach program of the nation’s land-grant university system and is coordinated in Louisiana by the LSU AgCenter. Its purpose is to help young people develop knowledge and skills that will benefit them throughout their lives. Projects range from livestock and outdoor activities to computer science, family life, photography and many more.

For more information, visit www.lsuagcenter.com.