Livestock 4-H’ers compete in inaugural Battle of the Barns



Small but mighty, the six-member small animals team rose above the competition.

The five other teams competing in the inaugural Battle of the Barns competition Friday night in Show Arena 1 at the Jackson County Fair in Brownstown had 20-plus members apiece.

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That didn’t faze Bridget Marshall, Anna Obermeyer, Winnie Thompson, Darren Beeler, Brocker Bottorff and Josie Dotts.

They worked together through six games — tug of war, a puzzle, a straw bale throw, a relay water race, an obstacle course and chanting — and finished with 14 points for the win.

In the competition, the lowest-scoring team won. First place in each game was awarded one point, second place got two and so on.

Sheep finished with 16 points, while swine and goats both had 17 and cattle and horses each had 23.

“It was pretty great because I really didn’t expect us to win because everybody was like, ‘Well, you’re small. You’re not going to win,’” Obermeyer said after gathering with her team around the Battle of the Barns champion traveling banner.

“The goats (team) at the beginning wanted us to join with them because they were saying how small we were, so it’s kind of nice just to show them that even though we’re small, we could still compete,” Marshall said.

The small animals team consisted of Jackson County 4-H’ers involved in showing cats, dogs, poultry and/or rabbits.

“I liked the fact that we were a small group,” Dotts said. “I come from the goat barn, so I’m with that club, and they were all saying how small we were … that we’re not going to win because we’re so small, and I kept telling them that it doesn’t matter how small you are because small is mighty and it’s just to have fun. It’s not to win, not to lose. It’s to have fun.”

The competition was created by Alyssa Eberle, a summer intern with Purdue Extension Jackson County. The Purdue University sophomore is studying animal science with a minor in communications and was placed by in Jackson County by Purdue Extension.

“I actually requested Jackson County because it’s the ‘it’ fair,” Eberle said. “I’m from Clark County, so I’ve always wanted to come back and get into this fair.”

One of the requirements of her internship is doing a project.

“For it to be a learning experience for our internship, we all have to do a project,” she said of the Purdue Extension interns across the state. “I’m livestock partial, so I wanted to do something to give back to livestock kids.”

Eberle said Farm Bureau used to sponsor a lock-in for kids who showed livestock at the Clark County Fair, and then it turned into a 4-H fun night before Battle of the Barns was established.

The competition had good participation, so Eberle hoped for the same results by starting one at the Jackson County Fair.

On Friday, more than 100 boys and girls of a variety of ages who show livestock for 4-H participated.

There were three tug of war face-offs. Cattle defeated goats, swine won against sheep and horses came out on top against small animals.

The puzzle contest involved one member of a team at a time running to find a puzzle piece in a bucket of wood shavings. They each brought it back to their team’s area to place it on the puzzle board. The goats team won that event.

For the straw bale throw, each team chose a member to toss. The sheep team, represented by Derek Thompson, won.

Next, 15 people from each team competed in a relay water race. Standing in a single-file line, one person passed a cup of water over their head, and the next one had to pass it between their legs. The person at the front of the line moved to the back, and the first team to get their starter back to the front won. That wound up being the small animals team, which had to do it twice since it had the fewest members.

The obstacle course consisted of jumping in a potato sack, carrying a plastic egg on a spoon while walking over a straw bale, hula-hooping 10 times, throwing a ball into a bucket and spinning around with a pool noodle five times. Again, small animals won.

The contest ended with each team gathering in a circle and coming up with the loudest chant.

Beeler and Marshall both said they liked tug of war the most.

“Even though we were a small group and we lost, it was just a lot of fun,” Beeler said.

“I like the fact that when we started, some of the goat people wanted to join in and help us even though they weren’t supposed to, which I kind of liked that they thought since we’re so small that they should come help us,” Marshall said.

Bottorff and Thompson both liked the relay water race.

“You had to go over and under, and you had to run back and forth to see who could do it,” Thompson said, noting it was easier to pass the cup of water over her head. “There wasn’t very many of us, so it didn’t take us very long.”

Obermeyer said the obstacle course was her favorite.

“Because it was just fun to see who was best at what things, like this person is really good and who needed to go first and last,” she said.

The team had a good time competing after spending the week working with, taking care of and showing their animals.

“It feels awesome. I haven’t won anything like this in a long time,” Dotts said, smiling.

“It was nice just to relax with other people that show because some of us only show one animal,” Marshall said. “Like for me, I show a dog, and that show is always before the fair, so it’s like you don’t really get to interact with other people from other barns.”

Eberle said it was great watching all of the 4-H livestock members compete.

“They were amazing,” she said. “I didn’t think I was going to have this big of a turnout. I didn’t think the kids were going to be that into it. … But I’m so glad all of the older kids showed up, too, because that’s kind of a thing with these things, they think it’s just cool for little kids to do. I’m glad the whole barn got into it.”

The goal of the internship project is to build a sustainable project that makes a lasting impact on the county, and Eberle said it means a lot to her to do that for Jackson County.

“That is the best feeling I’ve ever had in a while to know that all of my hard work has paid off,” she said. “I had so many people come up to me and thank me and say that it was great, even if people weren’t always pleased with the outcome. It was really awesome.”

Eberle also thanked Purdue Extension Jackson County summer assistants Kalynda Hoevener and Chloe Bryden for helping make the inaugural Battle of the Barns a success.

“I couldn’t have done it without them,” she said. “They were awesome help.”

Seeing the smallest team numbers-wise hold its own against larger teams was interesting for Eberle.

“I hope that doesn’t discourage the bigger teams to come back next year,” she said. “I think everyone will have a fun time, especially with the things that we know we need to improve for next year. I’ll definitely come back and try to help as much as I can next year.”

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