Harvard Milk Days puts fun, cows on parade

Harvard Milk Days Festival 2013

HARVARD – Despite temperatures that reached only 61 degrees and overcast skies Sunday, a large crowd of people – many of whom were wearing sweaters or jackets – enjoyed the last day of the annual Milk Days.

Natalie and Xander Page of Harvard did battle at the Water Wars stand, where two people who stand underneath plywood stations launch water balloons at each other using slingshots.

Ten-year-old Xander and 8-year-old Natalie wore ponchos, but still left with wet clothing.

"Natalie, you have to pull down really hard," said Amy Zick, the youngsters' neighbor. "Oh, these kids are hilarious."

At one point, Xander landed a water balloon in Natalie's launch bucket.

"That was a good shot," Zick said.

Zick brought the Page children and her 7-year-old daughter, Alexis, to the Milk Days carnival on the cool day.

"I rather it be like this than it being super hot," Zick said. "They're having fun. That's all that matters. Plus I got my funnel cake."

People around the carnival area screamed on rides, ate traditional deep-fried foods and ears of corn and played games.

Part of the festival included a Junior Dairy Cattle Show. Niki Steffenhagen, 18, of Rockford, has a cow, Jewels, that she keeps at Ridgecrest Farms in Harvard.

Steffenhagen has owned Jewels since April, and Milk Days was their first show together. Jewels won a supreme championship

"I'm proud of her; she showed up to win," Steffenhagen said.

Steffenhagen has been showing cows since she was 10.

"I make sure she has the proper nutrition, the proper feed, make sure she is milking good and ... she is milked at the right time, so she looks her best for the show," Steffenhagen said.

Jerry Smith of Davis evaluated showmanship and the cattle at Milk Days. For showmanship, he watched how the youngsters handled the animals.

"If you have someone who is working with them a lot, they know what their cow is going to do, what they need to do to make their animal look the best," Smith said.

When evaluating cattle, Smith looks at the style. He's analyzing the size of the animals, how well they're walking and udders, he said.

"It's a beauty contest," Smith said.

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