Kings of the Johnson County Fair
When Allyssa King and her lambs won four trophies and a dozen ribbons at the Johnson County Fair last week it was a family affair.
It was Allyssa who worked close to two hours a day getting the lambs ready. It was Allyssa who walked the lambs around the ring and positioned them in just the right way to catch the judge's eye. And it was Allyssa who proudly accepted the awards. But she's the first to admit it was her family that made it all possible.
Allyssa's mother, Denise, her father, David and her sister, Brianna are all active in DeSoto's Pioneer 4-H Club. Denise is an instructor in the local club and an ambassador sponsor in the Johnson County club.
When their Allyssa and Brianna decided to join 4-H several years ago the family had only a few lambs for the girls to train. This year 55 lambs were born on their small farm.
To say 4-H has had a big influence on their lives would be an understatement, Denise said.
"We started with three lambs 11 years ago and look at us now. We just love it," she said. "The great thing about it is that it's for the whole family. It's definitely not a drop-off kind of club."
Denise said she and her husband have learned as much about raising animals over the years as their daughters have.
"We've learned with the kids. We can't really afford to call a veterinarian out every time something happens, so we've had to learn how to do things ourselves," she said. "If there's a problem while one of the lambs are giving birth then we have to get in there and help them."
When the lambs are born, Allyssa and Brianna hand pick the ones they want to train for the following year. Allyssa said her dedication earns her first choice of the baby lambs.
"I get the better quality ones because I work the hardest at it," she said.
On any given weekend in the spring, there is a 4-H show somewhere, Denise said. The family makes the rounds, gearing up for the contest of the year, the Johnson County Fair.
The county fair is an event in the King household. David takes a week off work and the family spends most of the week in and around the livestock area of the fairgrounds.
"A lot of people even camp out," Denise said. "But we like to go home and sleep in our own beds. Beyond that, we're up here."
David said he doesn't mind giving up a week's vacation.
"It's the Superbowl for us," he said.
Allyssa turned 14 last Friday and spent her birthday cleaning out the lambs' pen. As the girls get older, Denise is left wondering how she will spend her time once they are too old for 4-H.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," she said.
"I imagine she'll find someone to sponsor and help out. I can't imagine her getting out of it," David added.
Allyssa too plans to continue her work with animals.
"I want to be a veterinarian," she said. "So, I think this is a good thing for me to do now, just to get me used to it."
The immediate future for the family is much more definite.
With the county competition behind them, they will go on to the Kansas State Fair Sept. 14 and 15.