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story.lead_photo.caption STAFF PHOTO Michael Woods • @NWAMICHAELW Spectators and buyers watch the parade of animals Thursday during the auction.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Washington County Fair livestock auction was still an hour away, but the cattle and hog barns thrummed with activity.

Near one corner, contestants in their teens and younger hosed down sturdy steers. Others dried and brushed their animals' fur under massive fans hanging from the roof. Kids and parents swept hay and sawdust and droppings. Bids could reach $1,000 or more, and everyone wanted his or her sheep, goat, rabbit or cow to look its best.

At A Glance

Fair Schedule

• Today: Gates open at 10 a.m., with carnival rides starting up at 5 p.m. Hours are extended until 2 a.m.

• Saturday: Gates open at 9 a.m., with carnival rides opening at noon. Hours are again extended until 2 a.m.

Source: Washington County Fair

Nick Pohlman, 13, has been through the rush before, showing cattle since before kindergarten. He carefully brushed a sizable, year-old black Angus heifer near the arena's entrance, spraying de-tangler every now and then.

"It always gets me excited," said Nick, who lives in Prairie Grove. "Basically from the moment you start training to when you show them, you're preparing them."

More than a hundred 4-H'ers and Future Farmers of America members showed off their champion animals Thursday night during the fair's junior auction. Animals aren't actually sold -- the event instead serves as a rally and reward for kids who've spent months preparing for this week.

"It really teaches them time management, and that's a real big thing they need," said Tami Pohlman, mother of Nick and his 19-year-old brother, Will. She added with a laugh, "I think Will was 6 and he goes, 'Town kids have too much time on their hands.'"

Dozens of bidders, mostly local agricultural business owners and representatives, sat in a semicircle as kids in various states of nervousness led their animals around a small pen in the middle. Outside the arena, the carnival rides ramped up and bass-heavy music played, but inside, the auctioneer's rapidfire, rhythmic voice mingled with the chatter of the crowd and bleats of goats.

The auction continued past press time, but $100,000 in bids or more typically goes to the kids.

"My children have always shown cattle in Benton County; I think it's a very good experience," said Mark Weathers, representing the Tyson Foods' Noel complex in Missouri. He and Reliable Poultry Supply in Springdale teamed up to bid $1,900, one of the evening's largest, on a beef heifer after a friendly battle with another bidder.

"We've got to support these young people, because they're going to be the next farmers," Weathers said.

The money won typically goes toward next year's animals or college savings, even for those still in middle school, several participants said. Nick, who won $800, said it'd be split between the two.

Participants dressed in their nicest jeans and button-ups. The flair sometimes extended to the animals: Silver glitter glinted from the massive flanks of Casey Burden's market steer.

Casey, 11, said her $1,150 bid will help buy another steer for next year, but part will be saved. She heaved the reluctant beast through a crowd of humans of all sizes after her bid.

"He's a big ol' baby," she said with a smile.

NW News on 08/29/2014

Print Headline: Fair Auction Supports Youth

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