by Eric Stearley
When the Wabash County Fair comes to a close in mid-July, it is the end of the road for many 4-Hers. For a few, however, the county fair is a warm up for the big competition at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis. For two county residents, the seemingly endless hours of work paid off big, bringing their grand champion awards back to Wabash.
Elizabeth Michel of North Manchester showed the 4-H Grand Champion Meat Goat Wether, Quake, in the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum on Aug. 4.
“It was really neat getting to show in the brand new coliseum Monday night with the spotlight on us,” said Michel. “It was just such an amazing experience.”
The daughter of Jeff and Amanda Michel, Elizabeth began showing goats seven years ago when she started 4-H. The Michel family grows corn, soybeans, and wheat for a living, only raising livestock for 4-H, but they’ve come a long way since that first year with the animals.
“My first year of 4-H, we knew nothing about goats whatsoever,” said Michel. “My dad used to be in 4-H, and he did nothing with them. He showed hogs and beef and sheep when he was in 4-H, and he suggested my first year that I show [goats]. This is my seventh year, and I’ve been showing them all seven years now.”
This is not the Michel family’s first success this season. Elizabeth showed the Grand Champion Market Wether/Doe at the Wabash County 4-H fair, with her brother, Skyler, showing the Reserve Grand Champion. But the state fair, according to Michel, is a different ball game.
“It was a lot different than Wabash, because all the people in Indianapolis, they break their goats and they do their legs a lot different,” said Michel. “It’s just a lot more competitive.”
The goats that took the top prize at the county fair, however, were not the same goats that the Michels took to the state fair.
“In the past, we’ve had problems with our goats getting sick, because they were stressed out being at a different place for so long,” said Michel. “This year, my dad and I, and my brothers, wanted to try taking different goats to the county fair and then keeping the state fair goats at home so that they could stay healthy and rest at home before the state fair.”
When asked what set her and her goat apart form the rest of the competition, Michel said it all came down to hard work.
“I think it’s because we worked hard enough for it,” said Michel. “That’s all we’ve worked for this summer was to compete as well as we can down at Indianapolis. We were up early every single morning, and we were down in the barn late at night every single night just working and pushing ourselves harder to be better and to show better than the competition down there.”
Elizabeth, who started her sophomore year of high school this week, shows goats exclusively. Her brother Skyler, in his fourth year of 4-H, shows turkeys and chickens in addition to goats. Elizabeth’s youngest brother, Zach, also helps with the goats, but is not yet old enough to participate in 4-H. For the Michels, 4-H is truly a family affair.
“We were very, very blessed to be able to do something like this and to do well in it,” said Michel. “I couldn’t do it at all without my family. My brothers, Skyler and Zach, there’s no way I would be able to do it without them. It’s a family thing, and I love doing it.”
Michel was not the only Wabash County resident to bring home a grand champion title from the state fair. After a hugely successful run at the Wabash County Fair, taking home both Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion Best of Show in the meat goat competition, Madalyn Dale showed the Grand Champion Percentage Boer Doe, Cranberry Ice, in the Indiana State Fair’s open competition.
The daughter of Shane and Gina Dale, Madalyn has been showing goats for eight years, but her family’s experience with goats goes back much further.
“It all started with grandpa Jim. He always raised pygmy goats for dad and his brothers,” said Dale. “Dad wanted to get me into something like it, so he started the Boer goats my first year. We started with three goats, and now we’ve got a lot.”
Like Michel, Dale said the competition at the state fair is a bit different than that at the county fair.
“You go down to state, and you get into people who do it big,” said Dale. “Everybody comes from around the state of Indiana. We have some out-of-state too, because you can show in as many state fairs as you want. So you get a lot more people. You have better competition and a lot more to work for.”
Like the Michels, raising goats is a family affair for the Dales. Madalyn’s brother, Quentin, took home several awards at the county fair and won first place in his class at state. The state fair in Indianapolis is close compared to some of the places Dale has traveled showing goats.
“I’ve been quite a few places with the goats,” said Dale. “I’ve been to Michigan, Ohio, we’ve been to Texas, a lot of different places. Mostly I enjoy being able to meet the people at the shows I go to. I know that all the hard work and determination I’ve put into it pays off in the end.”
For another competition, Dale traveled to Nebraska in June to show Cranberry Ice at the American Boer Goat Association Nationals, where she won Grand Champion Percentage Boer Doe. Because of the trip, Cranberry Ice was ineligible for the 4-H competition this year, but was still able to compete in the open competition.
In addition to goats, Dale shows swine and poultry, but she likes goats the best.
“I like how they act,” Dale said. “I like how easy they are to tame down, and that any age can work with them. They’re just a really fun animal to have, because they’re a lot like a dog.”
Of all the goats Dale raises, one stands out from the rest. As state and national champion, Cranberry Ice is a special goat.
“She had what it took,” Dale said about her win at the state fair. “She’s in the best show shape of her life. From the day she was born, she was just that much better than any other goat in my barn. I’ll continue to show her for, hopefully, quite a while.”
For Elizabeth Michel, Madalyn Dale, and Wabash County as a whole, this year’s fair season has been a huge success. With another week to go at the Indiana State Fair, there is a chance that Wabash County could see another grand champion.