TURLOCK — West Side rabbits and cattle brought in top prizes — and cash — at Stanislaus County Fair’s livestock auction Saturday.
For the second year in a row, West Side competitors took three of the four top spots in cattle competitions, while Patterson 4-H won the top club steer award.
“That’s pretty impressive,” said Patrick Alves, 4-H beef group leader and Patterson Auction Boosters president.
West Siders also took three of the four single fryer rabbit awards and two of the top spots in the rabbit meat pen category.
Michael Fantozzi of Patterson FFA works with his 1,223-pound reserve supreme champion steer, Beast, Saturday morning at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds. Beast sold for $6 per pound at auction. Melissa Carrick/Patterson Irrigator
Local residents also showed off sheep, hogs and goats as auctioneers rattled off prices and hundreds watched from the stands.
In the junior market steer auction, Michael Fantozzi of Patterson FFA received $6 per pound for his 1,223-pound reserve supreme champion, Beast. His cousin, Thomas Fantozzi of Patterson 4-H, received the 4-H grand champion award and $5 per pound for his 1,264-pound animal, aptly named Steer. Vernalis 4-H’er Shelli Johnson took home 4-H reserve grand champion honors and $4 per pound for her 1,208-pound steer, Popeye.
Michael, who will be a senior at Patterson High School next year, spent months of preparation feeding Beast, walking him around and introducing the animal to a “show stick,” used to direct it in front of judges. He and others also participated in jackpot competitions, two- or three-day-long events that allow competitors to practice showing their animals.
When it finally came time for the fair, Patterson FFA students showed up at 6 a.m. on a regular basis and took turns looking after the animals.
Mark Maring of Crows Landing 4-H checks on his pig.
Michael said judges look at a steer’s shoulders and its overall build.
Thomas, who used a vacuum tube-like contraption to blow-dry his steer before auctioning him, said lots of washing and drying are also required.
Both he and Shelli will be freshmen at Central Catholic High School next year, and both raised their animals at home.
“It felt good,” Shelli said of earning her reserve grand champion award.
“I was really excited.”
“I was even more excited for him, though,” she added, motioning toward Thomas.
Shelli said she looked forward to eating her steer, noting that a friend had bought it. She said there wasn’t much sadness upon letting the animal go.
“You get attached,” Thomas added, “but then you get unattached.”
Pigs, rabbits and more
Others at Saturday’s auction expressed similar ambivalence about selling their animals to be slaughtered.
“It’s sad, I guess,” said Mark Maring of Crows Landing 4-H, who sold a pig in the swine portion of the auction.
“They’re not pets to us,” said fellow Crows Landing 4-H member Nicole Henriques, who also sold a pig.
Crows Landing 4-H member Samantha Kramer, who had the 4-H grand champion single fryer rabbit, said she does not get attached to such small animals — but it’s irrelevant, anyway. Her winning rabbit will be kept for breeding, not eating.
Samantha, who will be a junior at Patterson High School next year, was at a softball tournament when her sister called her and told her the news of her win.
“I was running around telling the whole team,” she said.
Judges look for rabbits with “butterball-type” bodies that weigh three to five pounds with medium muscles, she said.
She picked her winning rabbit, Fatty, from a litter raised by her sister.
Samantha received $65 per pound for her 4-pound rabbit, and Patterson resident Kyle Ambrosino received $75 per pound for his reserve grand champion rabbit, Baboon.
Kyle’s brother, Cody, received $26.92 per pound for his 4-H reserve champion meat pen rabbit, Scooby.
Their father, Mike Ambrosino, explained that his sons — including Justin Ambrosino, who took first place for advanced showmanship — spent lots of time gearing up for the fair.
“Their hard work paid off,” he said. “They spent the whole year working on this stuff.”
Newman FFA member Karina Rios took the FFA reserve champion meat pen rabbit award, and Newman FFA member Carlee Sterling received a reserve grand champion award in the single fryer category.
Level playing field
The Patterson Auction Boosters exists to ensure that most everyone else gets the same price for their hard work.
The group gets contributions from individuals and businesses, and Alves said it would have no money without community support. Occasionally, someone at the auction will outbid the group, but that’s a rarity, Alves said.
This year, the group contributed $1.70 per pound for beef cattle, 91 cents per pound for sheep and 57 cents per pound for hogs.
Patterson resident Eloy Vento, whose sons, Chris and Sam, entered pigs in the fair, said the involvement of local residents in junior livestock events is a good sign and helps maintain the area’s agricultural roots.
“Even with all the urban sprawl on the West Side, a lot of kids in the city are raising farm animals,” he said.
To reach Jonathan Partridge at the Irrigator, call 892-6187 or e-mail him at email@example.com.