4-H’ers compete in second Battle of the Barns


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They may not be the greatest of all time, but they were the greatest of Friday night.

During the second Battle of the Barns in Show Arena 1 at the Jackson County Fairgrounds in Brownstown, the goat barn won the five-team event with 25 points.

They were followed by sheep with 20, swine with 16, cattle with 15 and small animals/horses with 14.

More than 100 Jackson County 4-H members wrapped up a busy week of showing their livestock by joining one of the barn teams and competing in five rounds — tug of war, puzzle relay, hula hoop crawl, straw bale throw and bonus.

The cattle barn took the early lead by defeating the sheep and swine barns in tug of war and then only earned two points in the puzzle relay and one point in the hula hoop crawl but bounced back with a win in the straw bale throw.

The goat barn rallied by winning the puzzle relay, earning four points in the hula hoop crawl and winning the bonus round, which was worth 10 points. The latter involved the team’s coach wearing a headband with a card on it and members giving them clues to guess the words on it.

After organizers Heidi Mann and Haley Martin announced the results, going from fifth place to first, the goat barn team members jumped with excitement when they learned they won.

“They are great,” David Goecker, goat superintendent, said of his 4-H’ers. “They’ve had a fun week. It has been a long week, a hot week, and I think they looked forward to this more than anything.”

When asked if he expected the team to win, Goecker smiled and said, “They are pretty tough. Oh, I’m proud of them. They did good. … There’s a lot of competition all week trying to win with your animals, and it just brings everyone together at the end of the week.”

The competition was created in 2019 by Alyssa Eberle, a summer intern with Purdue Extension Jackson County. The Purdue University student was studying animal science with a minor in communications and was placed in Jackson County by Purdue Extension.

One of the requirements of her internship was doing a project, and Eberle’s goal was to build a sustainable project that makes a lasting impact on the county.

The contest didn’t occur in 2020 since the fair was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and when siblings Mann and Martin learned during a 4-H livestock committee meeting that volunteers were needed to head it up this year, they agreed to do so.

“We wanted to make sure that the kids got to do it again because it’s just an excellent opportunity, one, for them to meet everybody in their barn and really get to know each other and have a fun way to end the week,” Mann said. “And two, they’ve been stressed all week, they’ve had a long week, it has been hot and this is the best way to get them smiling and happy at the end of the week.”

Martin liked seeing the teams’ teamwork.

“I just think it’s great to see them because all week, they are within their species, they are going against each other in all of the shows competing. Then at the end of the week, it’s like all of that just changes,” she said. “They are all one team, one barn, so they are all competing together trying to beat the other species, so it’s not quite head to head within the barn. They all come together and team back up.”

The team aspect not only is important during Battle of the Barns, it also is that way in the goat barn.

“I really think our strategy is teamwork. I feel like this is the most close-knit barn,” goat barn member Allison Wynn said.

“We’re really close with everybody, so it was literally, ‘You do this. You do that,’ and that’s how it is during shows. If you need a goat shown, everybody is there to help,” teammate Anika Ross said.

While he thought the cattle team was going to win after the strong start, Jared Thomas was glad to see the goat team rally together.

“We’re always together,” he said. “Just being with them, that’s what I like. I like how it just brings everyone together, just gives everyone focus at the end of the week just to relax.”

Wynn, Ross and Thomas are 10-year 4-H’ers, so they were glad to win in their final opportunity to compete in Battle of the Barns.

“After a long, stressful week, especially for me, I’m glad I did it,” Ross said.

Now, it’s up to the younger goat barn members to maintain ownership of the traveling banner next summer.

“I’ll definitely be out here cheering them on,” Ross said.

Mann and Martin plan to organize the competition as long as they can.

“We’ve had several kids and parents tell us all week they just love seeing it, love having the kids be able to do it at the end of the week, so it’s definitely something that we’re going to keep doing,” Mann said.

“If they want to keep doing it, we’re going to keep doing it,” Martin said.

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