Story by Amy Beth Graves | Photos by Dave Liggett
When the piglets arrive, they’re greeted with cookies and marshmallows. The sweets are much more than a welcome reception – they mark the beginning of a long training process to get the piglets ready for the show ring at the county or state fair.
Roman and Ashton Dominique of Fulton County live for their moment in the show ring with their 4-H hogs. They spend every day of their summer vacation walking, cleaning, bathing and training their hogs, even on weekends and in the rain. They pass up swimming and shooting the breeze with friends to train their hogs so they are in tip-top shape for the Ohio State Fair in late July/early August and the Fulton County Fair in September.
“I have friends who say ‘Do you have any time off? You’re wasting your summer.’ That’s not true. There’s pride in winning and a sense of accomplishment you feel in the show ring especially when you’re chosen No. 1,” said Ashton, 14. She had the reserve grand champion market barrow (castrated male) at last year’s Ohio State Fair Sale of Champions, which drew more than 800 competitors. The purebred 280-pound Yorkshire sold for $26,000 to Ohio Farm Bureau, Bob Evans, Event Marketing Strategies and Huffman’s Market. Ashton received $7,000, which is going into a college fund and for future pig purchases. The rest of the money went to the Ohio State Fair Youth Reserve Program (see sidebar on page 12). Companies spend tens of thousands of dollars at the state fair Sale of Champions as a way of sponsoring and supporting youth ag education.
While Ashton came out ahead of her brother in the winner’s circle last year, 15-year-old Roman has had his share of success at the state fair – he had the reserve champion light cross and was third overall in 2014. The sheer number of ribbons, trophies and banners on display in the family home illustrates the siblings’ success in the show ring. They are constantly asked for the secret of their success by others who have shown much longer. The answer is simple: hard work, dedication and a touch of sibling rivalry.
“For awhile Roman was teasing his sister by calling her ‘NBA’ – No Banner Ashton. All that changed when she got her banner and Roman had to hold it in the picture,” laughed the teenagers’ mom, Angie.
Last summer Roman and Ashton went “whole hog” as father Trent jokes. They raised 12 pigs – eight for the state fair and four for the county fair. They followed a strict routine. Work started at 7:30 a.m. and ended around lunch time with Roman cleaning out one of the hog’s stalls while Ashton walked it for 45 minutes and then vice versa. The hogs were fed and washed and the entire process repeated again at 4 p.m. for another three hours.
Working for hours alongside a sibling every day during the summer has been known to break or cement a relationship. For Ashton and Roman, their friendship and work ethic is undeniable. While talking about their individual successes, they both are quick to give credit to each other; it’s a team effort even though only one name is on the award.
“We couldn’t be more proud of them,” Trent said. “The most gratifying thing I heard was when they said unprovoked ‘See, all that hard work does pay off.’ This is much more than winning; it’s about working hard and learning life’s lessons.”
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Ohio State Fair’s Youth Reserve Program
Established in 1995, the Ohio State Fair’s Youth Reserve Program allots funding for scholarships, contests, 4-H, FFA and several other youth programs. Virgil Strickler, the fair’s longest-running general manager, came up with the idea for the program as a way to award all participating youths for excellence. The amount of money youth exhibitors can receive during the fair’s Sale of Champions is capped, and all funds that exceed that cap go into the Youth Reserve Program. The program has been duplicated at other state and county fairs. Since its inception, the Youth Reserve Program has awarded $3,020,530 benefiting 33,000 youth exhibitors.
Dine to make a difference fundraiser
You can help raise funds for Ohio’s agricultural youth education programs by participating in “Ohio Farm Bureau and Friends Days at Bob Evans” May 16 and 17. Ohio Farm Bureau and Bob Evans Restaurants throughout Ohio have partnered on what is expected to be the largest community fundraiser program in the history of Bob Evans Restaurants. When you make a meal, carry-out or catering purchase May 16-17 at any of Bob Evans’ 194 restaurants in Ohio and hand in the flyer below, Bob Evans will donate 15 percent of your ticket to the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation, Ohio 4-H Foundation and Ohio FFA Foundation. Catering orders must be placed by May 9. Visit ofb.ag/BobEvans16 for more details and additional flyers.