“I don’t care what happens. All that matters is that we have fun,” 11-year-old Hayley Bell mused moments before leading her 4-month-old calf, Cupcake, into the beef cattle ring Saturday morning. Encouraging words from a little girl who had been up since 6 a.m. digging out stalls.
Her hands lingered on her show stick, gently rubbing Cupcake’s belly and brisket, rewarding the calf’s good behavior. Every so often the stick drifted down to the calf’s hooves for a minor adjustment. There’s always time for a little extra practice. The pair had already passed through the Junior Fit and Show and were now waiting for the Overall competition to begin.
“This is the best she’s ever done,” Hayley’s grandmother Debbie Bell said, leaning against the ring as Hayley entered the arena, Cupcake marching beside. This is Bell’s 20th year with a 4-H group at the fair. She leads the Stilly River 4-H in Camano Island and Stanwood. It’s on her farm where many of the animals the club members work actually live.
Stilly River member Deven Evans was feeling good, too. “It was great,” Deven beamed as he considered his and his calf Elle’s performance in the Novice Fit and Show earlier Saturday morning. The 9-year-old leaned confidently against the waiting wall next to Thor Pearson’s Intermediate Grand Champion, Tania. The massive heifer towered over Deven and snorted. Deven turned his head and jokingly stuck out his tongue. This was Deven’s first year showing at the fair; the confidence in his eyes promised it would not be his last.
Hayley’s scotch comb passed across Cupcake’s sides one last time, fluffing her up to make her look bigger. When she thought no one was looking, Hayley bent down for a kiss. “She’s my baby girl,” she later explained. An explanation wasn’t necessary.