NELSON — While beef cattle dominated spectators’ attention at the Nuckolls County Fair near here Tuesday morning, the early afternoon spotlight belonged to a quieter, gentler creature.
Action after lunch centered on the south end of the rabbit and poultry barn where 4-H’ers stepped out in front of a judge and around 20 moms, dads, grandparents and other audience members to show their rabbits.
The poultry show was to follow.
Under the watchful eye of judge Dennis Riemersma of Red Cloud, eight 4-H’ers and three “Clover Kid” pre-4-H exhibitors brought their rabbits to the table for inspection.
For some, just controlling a wiggly animal on the table or in their arms was the biggest challenge. During the showmanship competition, many of the youths also obviously were concentrating as they tried to remember all the points in their introductions, including information about the breed of rabbit they were showing.
Showing a rabbit includes turning it this way and that on the table to offer the judge a view from every direction. The exhibitor also takes time to show the judge the rabbit’s feet and even to count its toes.
Kylie Beard, 15, and Zak Corman, 13, were the two senior division exhibitors Tuesday. Beard won grand champion senior showperson, and Corman was runner-up.
Junior champion showman honors went to Avery Ostdiek. Reserve junior champion was Laka McReynolds.
A bit later, one of Corman’s Mini Lop senior does was named overall grand champion rabbit. Alex Watts’ white New Zealand senior buck was reserve champion.
Afterward, Corman, who brought four rabbits to the fair — a junior doe, a senior buck, and two senior does — said he was pleased with the way the fair had gone for him rabbit-wise.
“My dad’s cousin has a bunch of rabbits,” said Corman, who will be an eighth-grader at Superior Public School this fall, explaining how he got involved in the rabbit project.
This is his sixth year showing rabbits and his first showing hogs at the fair, which concludes on Wednesday. He said he enjoys working with the rabbits and is just learning the ropes with the swine project.
“They’re easy to show, and I have six of them,” he said of the rabbits.
Although Tuesday’s rabbit show was small, it included several different rabbit breeds including Mini Lop, Mini Rex, white New Zealand, Holland Lop and American Polish.
Riemersma evaluated the 4-H’ers for showmanship based on the way they presented their animals, the introduction they provided, and their ability to answer his questions about everything from what the rabbits eat to how many teeth are in their mouths.
“Is there anything else you want to tell me?”, he asked several of the exhibitors before finishing their showmanship evaluation.
Riemersma said a good introduction includes information on where the breed came from originally, when it came to the United States, and when it was accepted into the American Rabbit Breeders Association. Meanwhile, however, the 4-H’ers need to watch their time since they have just four minutes in front of the judge.
“Juniors, you have to get with the seniors,” Riemersma told the younger exhibitors, encouraging them to learn from their elders and get some pointers. “The seniors did a very nice job.”
Riemersma also evaluated all the rabbits based on their physical characteristics. Some rabbits are raised for meat, and he shared his thoughts with the audience on the best way to prepare them for supper.
Michelle Kohmetscher, a veteran in her post as rabbit superintendent, said numbers of rabbits and rabbit exhibitors at this year’s fair were about the same as a year ago.
While upwards of an inch of rain overnight into Tuesday had the fairgrounds steaming by midafternoon, she said the rabbit and poultry exhibits had been tolerating the weather so far.
Still, she was glad the fair would be ending Wednesday just as the hottest of this week’s temperatures arrive.
“We have enough fans,” she said. “I think we’re doing OK.”
Kohmetscher said she enjoys watching the 4-H’ers show their rabbits to the judge, and that the rabbit project is a good one for younger competitors since the animals are relatively easy to handle.
“It’s fun seeing those little kids start out,” she said. “They are so proud of their bunnies. It’s fun.”