Vallonia teen entering 43 animals in fair to write Tribune Fair Diary

Tom Tom, Shaniqua, Dumplin, June-a-bee, Buzz, Anita, Socks, Thing 2, Fred and the rest of the gang are all set for the Jackson County Fair.

Anika Ross, 18, has taken care of these animals year-round at her Vallonia home, and now, it’s showtime.

From Sunday to Saturday next week, the 2021 Brownstown Central High School graduate will spend many hours each day at the fairgrounds in Brownstown making last-minute preparations before the animals are in the spotlight.

Ross will be one of the busiest Jackson County 4-H’ers, as she has 43 animals entered into the fair. She has three rabbits, one turkey, two horses, one pig, two cows and two sheep, and the rest are goats.

She’s in her 10th year of 4-H and could have just entered a few projects, but she decided to make the most of her final year in the youth development organization.

“Go out with a bang,” she said.

“I like to be in a class. I just like to show what I’ve done,” Ross said of why she chose to enter so many animals. “I take care of them year-round, and while Mom is out on the road, I would do everything. I would clean them up, feed them, water them, and then I just like taking them to the fairgrounds and doing what I can. Instead of doing the minimum, I do the maximum.”

Being the youngest in a family of 4-H’ers, Ross felt it was important to keep the tradition going. Her older siblings, Christopher and Brittany, both were 10-year members, and her parents Memorie and the late Matthew Ross, both spent several years in 4-H.

“I love doing it,” Ross said. “I always took care of the animals. I was always the one out there of the morning doing stuff and taking care of feeding them. I didn’t want to stop the tradition of the 10 years, so I just kept my head going ‘I can do this,’ and I just kept myself to it.”

In her first year of 4-H as a third-grader, she showed a few rabbits at the fair.

“I was terrified,” Ross said, smiling. “I remember I had my first little rabbit. I was like a little thing, and Mom was just like, ‘It’s OK. Just put it up there.’ I had this big old baggy shirt on and everything. I remember sitting it up there and running away.”

She also showed rabbits in her second year of 4-H. So how did that go?

“It went much better,” Ross said, smiling.

She was happy to continue doing something her mom did in 4-H.

“That’s just the first thing that Mom said, ‘Oh you have to go do this. I did this,’ so I did and proceeded with that,” Ross said.

By her third year, a family friend, Jason Wynn, got Anika and Brittany into showing goats, and they continued from that point on.

“The babies,” Anika said of why she kept going with goats. “You get attached to them, and then they grow bigger with you. We will have Brittany’s goat from when she first started.”

Over the years, Ross has raised a variety of breeds of goats, and she’s able to determine which ones are good to show at the fair. She looks at how they are built and ensures their front legs are straight and back legs are square, their color is good and they are trimmed up.

Her goats get a 50-pound bag of feed and clean water in their troughs each night. She said she spends a few hours every night working with her goats, and that has taught her a lot.

“When Mom says, ‘Hey, go do this,’ I go do chores. That’s where I am,” Anika said. “It has taught me a lot of responsibility, gotten me my first job. It’s a lot of work, and it’s a lot of dedication. Some of my friends want to go hang out. I’m like, ‘Hold on. I’ve got to feed. Then I can go.'”

Her 32 goats at this year’s fair will be the most she has shown at once. There will be an open show Saturday before the fair officially starts Sunday, and then she will have 4-H shows next week. She also will participate in the goat variety show (dressing one up) and goat milk relay (a first responders goat milking competition), and her mom will compete in the goat parents showmanship contest.

Monday will be Ross’ busiest day, going from showing rabbits to the turkey to goats. She has shown rabbits all 10 years and poultry since sixth grade. She started the latter with a small game bird and over the years also has shown ducks, guineas and chickens.

On Tuesday, her two horses will compete in the 4-H halter show. She entered Buzz in last year’s virtual 4-H fair, so this will be her first year showing him in person.

She purchased Buzz, a retired rodeo horse, from the Rorig family at the end of her sophomore year.

“He was with a mare when he came in, but she got sold off to somebody else, and Buzz was left behind. Anika went out in the pen, and Buzz just trotted right up to her and put his head on her shoulder … so he kind of picked his owner,” Memorie said.

“Every time I would try to leave their property or walk to their house, he would sit there and just neigh at me,” Anika said.

Anita was a recent purchase.

“He needed a buddy,” Memorie said, referring to Buzz.

“Yeah, they are attached to each other,” Anika said.

Also Tuesday, Anika will show her spot pig, Fred. She hasn’t shown a pig since her family lived in Brownstown.

On Wednesday, she will show her two Katahdin sheep, Shaniqua and Dumplin.

With her two cows, Anika planned to show them for the first time during last year’s fair but did that virtually, so Thursday next week will be her first time showing Thing 2 and Socks in person.

Ross’ only nonanimal 4-H project this year is floriculture. She’s entering a floral centerpiece.

In the past, she also has done scrapbooking, gift wrapping, cake decorating, weeds, shooting sports, wildlife, veterinary science, forestry and insect collection. Pretty much the only projects she hasn’t done are sewing, Legos and home decor.

“I’ve tested about every project I could in my 10 years,” Ross said.

During the fair next week, she also will show animals during the quiet barn time for individuals with special needs Friday morning and compete in the Battle of the Barns on Friday night. Started two years ago at the fair, the latter event pits 4-H’ers from the different animal barns against each other in a variety of activities.

Then Saturday morning, she will sell a cow in the 4-H livestock auction.

She also plans to enjoy her favorite fair foods and rides with friends and support and help them during their shows.

“I try to go hang out with friends as much as I can because I know this year, they are going to be going to college and everything else,” Ross said. “It’s for fun. I’m not there for the competition. I’m not there for that. I’m there for spending time with my friends and having fun together.”

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Name: Anika Ross

Age: 18

Hometown: Brownstown

Residence: Vallonia

Education: 2021 graduate of Brownstown Central High School

Organizations: Jackson County 4-H Goat Club, Jackson County Horse and Pony Club, Jackson County 4-H Rabbit Club, FFA

Family: Parents, Memorie and the late Matthew Ross; brother, Christopher Ross; sister, Brittany Toppe

Future plans: Undecided at this point but interested in either becoming an emergency medical technician, a firefighter or a veterinary technician

2021 4-H projects: Rabbits, turkey, horses, pig, cows, sheep, goats and floriculture

Favorite fair food: Funnel cake

Favorite fair booths: All of the food ones and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department

Favorite fair ride: Freak Out

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The Jackson County Fair starts Sunday and runs through July 31.

Jackson County 4-H’er Anika Ross will submit a daily diary sharing her experiences at the fair with Tribune readers.

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For information about this year’s Jackson County Fair, visit