July 2013
Youth Matters

Focus on Family Fun and Educating Youth

The “Build a Better Burger” contest allows AJCA members to have fun with food during the annual Round-Up.  

AJCA Round-Up 2013, July 26-28, Garrett Coliseum

The winds of change will be blowing across the grounds of Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery during this year’s Alabama Junior Cattlemen’s Association Round-Up.

Youth from across the state will come together July 26-28 to compete in various endeavors during this 7th annual event.

Cobie Rutherford, AJCA director of industry relations and youth activities, described the Round-Up as a "family-oriented, fun event that focuses on educating youth about the beef industry."

The Round-Up boasts a variety of contests ranging from the traditional cattle-showing competitions to creative contests for each of the three age divisions - junior, intermediate and senior.

Rutherford said the wide range of contests is an inclusive endeavor to get as many junior cattlemen participating as possible.

  The Morgan County team was presented the first place ribbons and awards for the team grooming contest by the 2012 AJCA President.

"We realized there were a number of youth who were interested in beef and cattle production that don’t necessarily have the time or facilities to commit to a livestock project," Rutherford said. "That’s why we have those different contests available to them."

For example, AJCA members can compete in photography, poster, record book, career development and "Build a Better Burger" contests in addition to cattle showing, judging and grooming.

A non-owner showmanship class has been added to the schedule of events in order to give willing AJCA members as much experience handling cattle as possible.

Other new competitions include ad design, essay and salesmanship categories.

"The contests are a perfect venue for juniors to showcase the knowledge they possess, while the cattle shows allow them to demonstrate their work ethic and cattle," Rutherford added.

Kylie Elrod, Cullman County, won Supreme Heifer at the 2012 AJCA Round-Up. The award was presented by judge Shane Bedwell (center) and AJCA officers and board members (from left) James Robert Parnell, Shelby Windham, Morgan Graham, Kendall Jones, Brooke Roberts, Will Graves, Hannah Goodson, Cole Wakefield and Madison Tew. (Credit: Morgan Moser)  

An additional goal of the diverse competitions is to help participants develop beneficial career skills and abilities.

"You can’t really put a value on the number of times you get up in front of an audience to give a speech or you write an essay and have it judged," Rutherford said.

Rutherford has been working directly with an "outstanding junior cattlemen board [of directors] and officer team" to breathe fresh life into this year’s proceedings.

One result of their efforts is a hospitality area to be assembled in the Homer Lewis Barn. This addition will have the simple pleasures such as drink stations and large fans and be manned by volunteers.

"We’re really hoping the hospitality area gives kids a chance to get out of the heat and the families can go … and relax," Rutherford said.

Also new to the Round-Up, the judges will be asked to give feedback to each contest participant in an effort to help competitors learn and grow in their skills.

This emphasis on nurturing members into adulthood is exemplary of the character of the AJCA.

The Saturday night awards banquet will have added significance this year, as the top 10 members in each age division will be recognized according to their rank in participation points.

"We’re going to be able to recognize those youth who have worked really hard in several contests and placed," Rutherford explained.

This new points system encourages the junior cattlemen to branch outside of their comfort zones to try to win that overall participation award.

A novice division will be another original feature of the 2013 Round-Up. This category will provide members under the age of 9 a "positive learning experience that will … give them an opportunity to have fun while being recognized as the future of [AJCA]," according to the 2013 AJCA Round-Up Rules.

The AJCA board of directors emphatically affirms the merits of the Round-Up.

"It’s a really good time to enjoy with friends and family across the state and to be more involved in the AJCA," said Clay McGuire, AJCA secretary and District 3 director.

While McGuire has attended and competed in multiple Round-Ups, this will be his first time going as an officer.

"I’m most excited about getting to help out with the behind-the-scenes work," he said. "I know it’ll be a good experience with my fellow board members."

The board of directors arrives at the Round-Up two days early to help with setup and preparations.

Shelby Windham, AJCA president and District 4 director, has participated in every Round-Up since its inception and has nothing but positive opinions about the event.

"It’s a good experience that you can get in-state without having to travel to a junior national’s competition," the Dale County native said. "It’s also a good event for your animals to go to. It gets them not afraid of people and used to showing."

Windham said the Round-Up is about more than just showing cattle. The event also teaches young people important life skills such as teamwork through the different competitions.

"We have anything and everything and you don’t have to show cows to participate," Windham remarked.

Vice President and District 1 Director Will Graves echoed Windham’s statement, stressing "anybody can be involved."

For Graves, who is in his third year as an officer, the added responsibility of being a director is taken on as a service position.

"We’re there to help any adult, young person … anyone with any questions or anything they need," he said. "It’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything."

Interested young people won’t want to miss what McGuire calls "the event I look forward to most in the summer."

For information about rules, scheduling or how to become involved in AJCA, visit www.bamabeef.org and click on the AJCA link under the partner organizations tab.

Margaret Walsh is a freelance writer from Troy.