WOODSTOCK – Mike Pfeifer of Barrington and Rahn Pfeifer of McHenry stood for a while Saturday evening taking in the quiet strength of the massive steers in the George Dahm Memorial Beef Barn.
More than frozen, chocolate-covered bananas on a stick or ferris wheels or games, the 4-H exhibits, for the Pfeifers, were the big draw at the McHenry County Fair, which concludes Sunday.
“It’s amazing how powerful they are,” Mike Pfeifer said as his uncle reached out to pat an enormous black steer. “They could knock you over by moving their head. At the same time, they’re so gentle and friendly and nonchalant about everything.”
Four powerful fans blew down on the three steers in the stall where the Pfeifers paused. Two of the three had been declared champions – one the grand champion market beef and carcass beef, and another the reserve champion market beef.
The steers were the projects of 19-year-old Jacob Walters and his 17-year-old sister, Jacqueline Walters, both of Hebron. Jacob’s steer, 1,290-pound Tito, received grand champion honors, while Jacqueline’s, 1,180-pound Bud, was dubbed reserve champion.
Like many teens involved in 4-H, the Walters siblings have been attending the McHenry County and other fairs and shows since they were small children. For them, the fair is both fun and business.
Because their steers fared so well in judging, they were sold at the Sale of Champions and captured handsome prices of $4 a pound for Tito and $3.30 a pound for Bud.
Both of the Walterses said it’s a reflection on the effort they put into their projects, which included twice daily washings, blow dries, about 50 pounds of feed a day, and keeping the steers in an air-conditioned space that promotes greater hair growth.
“You learn so much” from 4-H participation and raising cattle, Jacqueline Walters said. “You learn the responsibility of taking care of the animals. You learn from talking to the people you buy from and the people who buy from you … you learn a lot about a good work ethic and keeping your priorities straight.”
Seventeen-year-old Eric Martin of Marengo High School agreed. He and his sister, Ashtyn, presented and sold their steers at the fair, too. The fair, though, he said, is as much about fun as it is about recognizing the hard work that went into the preparation for it.
Brianna Sheehan, 16, of Huntley, who also showed and sold a steer at the fair, said it’s a blast to show off the projects and gain some recognition – and also to hang out for several days with all of the other kids who are doing the same.
Janelle Seegers, her boyfriend, U.S. Navy Engineman 3rd Class Kory Worden, and Seegers’ 4-year-old daughter, Olivia, indicated that they’re grateful that people like the Walterses, Martins and Sheehan do what they do.
The trio marched right past the carnival rides and games and headed straight for the sheep, goats, rabbits, dairy cows and other animal exhibits when they arrived at the fair Saturday.
“I’ve been going here since I was her age,” Seegers said, nodding at Olivia, who was preoccupied with a miniature horse sighting.
“I saw that pony and it looked like my dog,” Olivia said. “Oh, I see more ponies! I want to pet them.”