Livestock descend on Manhattan for inaugural ‘Aggieville Showdown’

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Showmanship Champions in Aggieville
Photo by Bill Bernard

Initially set for 2020, the Aggieville Showdown was rescheduled because of the pandemic, with a new date of April 17, 2021, where exhibitors from the nation over vied for $5,000 in real money prizes and the
opportunity to show their cattle at a Grand Drive event in the Aggieville Business District.

Including a western design show, performer Lucas Maddy, and live meetings with the triumphant candidates, The Aggieville Showdown joined exhibitors, students, businesses, and all public to celebrate agriculture in the ‘Ville.

Calliham portrait
(courtesy of
Christian Calliham’s Twitter page)

Founder and General Manager Christian Calliham said inspiration for this event got started after fellow classmates and himself spent a summer doing internships and brainstormed an idea of doing a grand drive in the center of Aggieville.

“So I went to Kansas State University starting in 2017, I majored in Ag business, with an emphasis in marketing, and then I actually graduated this past May, 2020. That’s actually how this event kind of got started, was with some of my fellow classmates. We have just been working on this project for a little over the past two years, because of last year, but we were able to take off this year, we’re excited to share it with the community,” Calliham said. “This event has been really exciting, especially with COVID, we’ve all been inside and being separated. So I think an event like this, we’ve been taking all the safety measures possible, and I think one thing that’s really exciting about this, is a lot of people were excited to kind of unite and get back out into the ring of things. With this event, for that community to kind of tell their story, our goal is to really unite rural with urban and it’s about putting our show in a unique setting, with visibility to all walks of life, to really learn about the cattle in the agriculture industry.”

Calliham mentions exhibitors began arriving to the Riley County Fairgrounds, on Friday, and then finished checking in Saturday morning before competing in three divisions. With the Showmanship, Market Beef, and Breeding Heifers, it is dependent upon on how the exhibitor actually presents their animal to the judge, the characteristics of beef that will be going into the supply chain, and then the maternal characteristics for breeding purposes.

“So our judges are actually going to select the top 6 market beef and the Breeding Heifers to go down to Aggieville. It starts off with some opening ceremonies, a fashion show that highlights boutiques and retail stores from across the nation, followed by that we have a wide music performance from Lucas Manny, and then we get to the moment everyone’s been waiting for, which is the grand drive of cattle taking place,” Calliham said.  “So those top six  of those submissions will come into the ring and compete for over $5,000 in cash prizes to be crowned the inaugural showdown grand champion. Then after that, we’re also going to highlight our showmanship winners on stage and also do live interviews with the winners and conclude with some closing ceremonies.”

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Competition was fierce with over 200+ competitors in the three areas to evaluated, something Livestock Judge Ashley Judge said she, along with her fiance, don’t necessarily have requirements to judge, but have credentials through livestock judging competitively in college, and the showing cattle earlier on in their lives.

“So raising, breeding, showing livestock, you know, we’re very involved in all that. Again, that’s another qualification for it. So there’s multiple different avenues that you can go through, and I’d say most people that judge livestock shows in general, I grew up doing something like this  exhibiting, showing livestock, being around livestock, raising them, and then went on to either graduate college or have a degree. I’m an animal science or agribusiness, that only helped further that education in terms of livestock judging, and livestock valuation.”

Her fiance, Jake Wagner, says everyone comes from a different story, and believes that’s what makes it go round.

“That’s what makes this whole deal fun. There’s really no qualification, kind of type, design and preference on your own operation and your own system,” Wagner said. “I think the biggest thing, that anyone can do, that’s not involved in agriculture, is just be open minded, and listen to credible sources. There are so many influencers out there on social media nowadays, very successful people that might not have a role in agriculture itself that have a lot of say in it. As a general population, and as a general society, it seems asinine to me to listen to someone that’s not involved. So my biggest advice is to be open minded, and listen to the people that are involved. Listen to the people that are doing it every day. I promise you, everyone that is doing it everyday is very welcoming, we might not always seem like it, but very welcoming to the conversation.”

Following this sentiment, Judge said that a lot of people have misconceptions about Agriculture because like any industry, there’s bad apples.

“The fact of the matter is that 98% of everybody that runs livestock would give their heart and their soul for it. With our own operation, we give up countless hours of sleep every day, countless tears, countless everything for the livestock that we raised, and that’s 98% of everybody that raises raises animals, grows food, and any other Ag stuff,” Judge said. “It’s hard because for people that didn’t grow up in this industry or didn’t grew up doing it,  it’s hard to look from the outside looking in and see that the people that are farmers, or ranchers don’t do it to make money. We do it because it’s a lifestyle, it’s a way of life, and it’s the only thing we’ve ever known and people that raised livestock and grow food pride themselves on being able to provide a reliable source of food for not only people in our country, but people all over the world.”

From the Judges’ deliberation to the stands, those in the crowd had much to say. Local youth James Shivers and Justin Patton both were excited to come out and had never experienced this outside of their families farms, while Kansas State graduate McKenzie Heft says she grew up showing cattle, and thought the event was a really awesome event to show off the cattle, and came in support of her friend whom was a reserve showman in the intermediate division.

“Nothing like this has ever really been done, coming completely across town with cattle on the trailer. It does take quite a bit to get cattle ready, so for them to be ready on the trailer and coming all the way over to the middle of Manhattan is kind of interesting. And with all of the moving parts, this show is very smoothly ran, and we were very impressed with the way that things went today,” Heft said. “I think that it’s it’s really exciting and enlightening to see. I don’t remember the last time I saw people all together in the same area, and I think that it’s really exciting seeing the young people that are here and are showing, I think it’s really great for people to begin to start living their lives again in the midst of this pandemic. It’s really exciting to kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel, and a lot of people that were attending this event are absolutely ready for all of this to kind of blow over. So I’m excited to see kind of where it can go from here.”

Cattle Shows can be a family event, especially for mother of competing twins Wade & Wyatt, Carol Minihan, said that her three kids, showing off their heifers, have been involved for over 20 years, and feel it’s a lot of family bonding, through the arguments and friendships, concluding “these are some of the best people that you can hang out with”.

“I grew up showing sheep and cattle, and I probably was in sixth grade. The first time I showed a steer, winning is nice, but as I look back, it’s the memories that I remember not all the prizes that we’ve won. My mom was in 4-H, I was in 4-H, I mean, it’s just a family thing. 4-H is a wonderful organization, being involved in agriculture and the livestock industry, there’s just nothing better,” Minihan said. “It was hard last year not being able to show, since our kids have gotten out of high school. So now they’re just involved in the Breed Association, but it was hard not seeing our friends and seeing the people. It’s a long process, I mean, it’s not something that just happens overnight. You get your heifers or your steers or whatever you’re showing in the fall, and we start working in the fall with them and spending a lot of time, all day, mornings, nights, and then spring rolls around and you can’t go to any shows. It’s a financial commitment, so it was pretty tough. But we were just glad that we got to show and we ended up getting to go to our nationals home show, which was supposed to be in Louisville, but Louisville wouldn’t let us come there. So we ended up having in Kansas City and it was shortened.”

Wade & Wyatt Minihan – Senior Showmanship Competitors
Photo by Bill Bernard

Her sons, both Wyatt and Wade, say that that at 23, they have actually aged out of the American Hereford Association, but being able to get back into the ring was really nice to experience again, as they usually watch their sister year round.

“I would say it’s pretty similar to a lot of the spring shows we go to, I’d say this one’s a little, maybe higher scale than the other ones. I know that they’ve promoted a lot of stuff and asked a lot of people to come, so that’s a nice thing. But it’s pretty equivalent to other spring shows, it just seems to be a little more amped up compared to the other ones,” Wade Minihan said. “We both graduated right when Corona was hitting pretty hard, so we didn’t get to experience it like other students. In the real world as adults, a lot of it has changed with the show industry, we’ve had to experience quite a bit of shows getting cancelled. And so those shows that we are capable of going to it means a lot more for us to be able to do something that we’re so passionate about.”

“A lot of the work is at home. So a lot of you people come to shows, but they don’t realize all the back work that happens at home. It’s the daily feeding, hair work, just working with your animal showmanship, skill, stick work, all that stuff actually happens at home so that when you come to a show you can be successful. So on a day, a normal morning, it’s early mornings,” Wyatt Minihan said. “Normally [we]get here pretty early, normally starting with wash and blow  getting your cattle’s hair looking nice. And then feeding, watering, getting them so they look in their best condition. So a lot of the grunt works at home, but when it comes to shows, that’s where all the fun happens, and you get to relax a little bit, but still a lot of work.”

To learn more about the event, visit https://www.aggievilleshowdown.com/.

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