Daphne Norman, 17, decided to take it easy and focus on quality instead of quantity at the California State Fair in mid-July, entering only five animals -- two meat goats and three market lambs -- with the goal of winning Grand Champion Meat Goat.
"My big goat is really special," Norman said. "I named him 'Obvy' because he is obviously the best goat I've ever had."
Meat goats need to be very lean to do well and this means a lot of exercise. Norman was running Obvy nearly a mile a day to stay fit. The pair developed a strong partnership during their workouts.
"This is the most ready I have ever felt arriving at State Fair," she said. "That is a good feeling."
The Junior Livestock schedule at State Fair is rather hectic. After arriving on Wednesday, July 15, all the showmanship classes are held on Thursday and all the market classes on Friday. Since Norman shows two species -- meat goats and lambs -- this means shows are going on at the same time in different rings.
All day Thursday she kept asking her mother, Laura Norman, if she could scratch sheep showmanship because her heart was with Obvy at the goat show. Laura advised her to wait and see how the timing worked out. It was likely she was going to be able to show both.
The Advanced 4-H Market Sheep showmanship did come first and Daphne was able to show her Southdown ewe lamb Doris. Since Daphne had planned on skipping sheep showmanship all day, she had no nerves or expectations and won the class.
The win in the Market showmanship class required her to come back and show against the Breeding Sheep showmanship winner for the title of Champion Sheep Showman. In the head-to-head competition, Daphne placed second for the title of Reserve Champion Overall Sheep showman.
California State Fair takes the top two showman from all four species -- beef, sheep, swine and meat goat -- and has them compete in Master Showmanship for the title of Grand Champion Showman, the highly coveted Golden Bear trophy and a $500 US Savings Bond.
State Fair Master Showmanship is held on Sunday morning, the last day of the Fair for Junior Market exhibitors.
The eight showmen from four species all compete against one another by rotating through the show ring. The Advanced 4-H winners showed sheep, followed by swine, then meat goats and finally steers. The event was completed by 9:30 a.m., but winners were not announced until the Awards Program at 2:30 p.m.
When the winners were announced, Daphne came in first and she received her third Golden Bear -- her second win in two years.
Traveling companion and good friend Shannon Sumpter of Madera also earned her third Golden Bear that same day in the Best of County Master Showmanship contest. Last September Sumpter won first place in Master Showmanship at the Madera Fair which made her eligible for the Best of County competition this year. Like Norman, Sumpter won her second bear in 2011 in the same contest.
There are only five Livestock Master Showmanship Golden Bears awarded each year. Four of the five in 2012 were won by the same girls in 2011. Only the Junior 4-H Master Bear went to a different person. This is a highly competitive group who have become good friends through the competition.
Many exhibitors have earned two bears in the past, but only three exhibitors have earned three. Joining the elite 3-Bear Club, Norman and Sumpter both show several species, but they are primarily sheep girls.
This was Sumpter's last State Fair as she has now aged out. Norman is still eligible for two more State Fairs. She hasn't made it into FFA Master with her goats yet, and may earn eligibility for Best of County in the future.
Norman is going into her senior year at Yosemite High this fall, where she will be FFA chapter president. She represents Coarsegold 4-H with her sheep.