"At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure" (Luke 10:21 NIV).
The 2016 North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, KY held experience after experience. When we arrived the first order of business was to unload the sheep and all the equipment. Our first car arrived and they immediately scouted out a good location for the pens as well as nearby space to set up the shearing stands, lawn chairs and the huge storage box. They found a great spot close to the show ring, access to water and room enough for three shearing stands, six lawn chairs and the sheep tack box adjacent to the pens. They made claim to the area while they waited for the truck and trailer to arrive with the sheep.
The roads around the Kentucky Expo Center ran right along the freeway and seemed to take us in circles as we began the search for the appropriate sheep docks to unload. There was a massive line of trucks and trailers for several blocks, all waiting to do the same thing. Occasionally one truck would pull out after unloading so the line of vehicles edged ahead. The instant we were parked near a dock all our troop swarmed around the trailer and truck to unload the equipment and sheep. The kids took their own sheep by halter and led them through the maze of pens, people, sheep, and sheep tackle to secure them in the designated pens, following the line of our troop all loaded down with equipment. It was quite a procession, woven amidst tens of other families doing the same thing.
Following the check in, parking the trailer and getting the sheep settled and fed, we were starving and tired so we all headed to a restaurant - along with hundreds of others. We finally found a place that wasn't an hour wait and gratefully fell into our seats to enjoy a meal. The next stop was our hotels where we again did the unloading, of luggage this time.
As Friday morning arrived it was showmanship day. The first order was weighing in the lambs, getting show numbers for the kids, washing and shearing the lambs and preparing for the showmanship competition that started at 4 p.m. The classes were announced, sorted by age of the exhibitor, starting with the youngest of 6-years-old and ending with the oldest class of 20, I believe. We had grandchildren in the 8-year-old, 11-year old, 16-year-old, and 18-year-old divisions. There were up to 50 in every class. Kids lined the huge show ring with their sheep and did their best to make their lambs look their best for the judge. Each class took nearly an hour as the judge eliminated those who made a mistake or struggled to show their lambs. The judge narrowed it to about the top 10 showmen in the class. We were very proud that all of our kids got pulled to be in the top 10 of their class! But it was a very long night of showing and waiting.
Saturday was open for us as all of our sheep were in the black face crossbreed market show on Sunday. There were four sheep to wash and shear and plenty to see in the enormous exhibition Center. One of the favorites was a huge General Store geared to livestock showmen and breeders. Much like the Varied Industries Building of the Iowa State Fair, this was a huge collection of businesses ready to sell to the target audience of agriculturalists. For years I'd heard about the great shopping and the comments were correct. As a sheep lover, I was amazed to sort through all the little booths of collectibles, decorator items, equipment and western and show wear. I've never seen so many blue jeans with sparkles and bling!
The younger girls had a great time finding all the special sights at the expo. There were horse and wagon shows going on in one arena, and they found every family that was selling kittens or puppies in the area. There were dozens of dogs that accompanied sheep families for the expo so it was always fun to see them walking down the aisles or sitting on someone's lap.
Sunday was the big show day bustling with washing, shearing, primping of the sheep and the girls, also. The lambs were divided by breeds and weight classes. We had sheep in five weight classes of blackface crossbred lambs. There were at least 30 lambs and exhibitors in each class. The judge would pull lambs he liked as they came into the ring, then start through the lineup and feel each sheep, looking for the best of the best. He reduced the competitors by more than half, keeping the top 10-15 lambs in the ring while the others were excused. Then he would focus on those remaining in the ring and begin to rank them according to his opinion. It was a long task and a tough job. We were pleased that all of our lambs ranked in the top 10 of their class. Eight-year-old Bailey got to show the lamb that placed the highest: fifth in the class!
Though no one won a class, there weren't any downcast faces in our group. They all felt good about their placings and the experiences they enjoyed. Throughout the show year the grandchildren learned what the judge was looking for, what worked best to show off the good characteristics of their lambs, and they knew that practice and hard work pays off. Their experiences revealed wisdom of more than just sheep know-how, they learned about respect and professionalism, patience and the pleasure of a job well done.
Often the kudos of life seem to go the the rich, the famous, the popular, the smart or the big shots, but there is more to life than being number one. Fortunately, God is available to everyone who is able to trust like a child. Thank you God for being available to all of us and for creating ways for us to grow and understand how important a relationship with you is to our well-being. We praise you, God, for revealing your love to the children.