August 22, 2001 | By: Laura Skillman
LOUISVILLE, KY

Mike England and Hazel Russell watched anxiously as their children each took their turn in the ring during the 4- H/FFA Brown Swiss Dairy Show on opening day of the Kentucky State Fair.

England and Russell grew up on dairy farms, both showed at the state fair as youths, and today they are engaged to be married.

England's 10-year-old daughter Hannah was in the state fair show ring for the first time and so was Russell's son, 12-year-old Daniel Swanson. Neither finished at the top of their classes, but both came away with blue ribbons.

"It's a lot of fun," Daniel said. "Showing cattle is a lot better than showing sheep. You can't put a halter on sheep."

Jennifer Swanson, 15, was disappointed with her calf's performance but wasn't deterred about showing cattle. This was her second time to show at the state fair.

Jennifer said she's grown up with dairy cattle since her grandparents had them and she'd gone to shows with them. She quit showing for a few years herself but is back in it now.

All three of the children performed well in their county and district shows, pulling down top honors, but competing in Broadbent Arena at the Kentucky State Fair was the best, Jennifer said.

"I like sleeping in the barn, although the lights did get on my nerves," she said.

England and Russell support their children's involvement in 4-H activities because of the discipline and responsibility it teaches them. The children are responsible for the care of their animals and help each other when needed.

Participating in the 4-H activities is also an excellent way to meet people, Jennifer said. It has broadened her scope of friends well beyond the borders of Hart County.

The dairy show requires the children to dress in white during the competition and maneuvering a calf through the stalls and into the ring isn't always conducive to cleanliness.

"Keeping the kids clean is a challenge," Russell concedes.