Zach Gerling took home the title of Master Showman from this year’s Iroquois County Fair.
Gerling, who competed for the title against seven other 4-H members representing livestock barns from the around the fair, is a member of the Danforth Blue Ribbon 4-H Club and is a sophomore at Joliet Junior College.
Gerling said it felt good to win as he had been looking forward to competing in Master Showman for a while.
“I’ve been wanting to do this for a while,” he said. “My family’s been helping me. It feels good to finally get this done and feel accomplished.”
This was Gerling’s second year competing in Master Showman, but he’s been showing sheep for five years.
Gerling credits his family with getting him interested in showing livestock.
“My mom grew up showing cattle,” he said. “When I was growing up, I came to the fair a bunch and saw everyone showing and I wanted to get into it. I started with goats. I walked into the sheep barn and it was like ‘This looks more interesting’ and got into sheep and stuck with it.”
Asked what some of the challenges of showing sheep at the Master Showman competition were, Gerling said showing the sheep without a halter.
“You’re showing them with just your hand under their chin and hoping that they don’t spook and go crazy,” he said.
While he had shown swine at the Master Showman competition two years ago, Gerling said showing the swine this year was somewhat difficult since he was a little rusty.
“I was two years without showing a pig, so it was completely different,” he said.
Gerling said showing cattle just comes natural to him.
“I like showing cattle,” he said. “I always wanted to show cattle.”
Gerling said he’s looking forward to competing at the Illinois State Fair Master Showman.
“I like competing and showing livestock at the highest level I can,” he said. “I’d like to be able to represent my family there. It’s a great opportunity.”
Rainy conditions on July 16 disrupted the normal order of competition for the Master Showman event. Heavy rains forced several schedule changes for a variety of events, so there was a delay between when competitors showed swine and when they showed the sheep and cattle.
This year’s competition had 4-H members show swine, sheep and cattle.
During the competition, Nita Dubble informed the crowd that the fair has been looking at ways to help prepare 4-H members to be more competitive at the state level for the past few years.
She said the winner of the Iroquois County Fair Master Showman has a chance to compete at the Illinois State Fair Master Showman.
Dubble said they opened the competition up to 4-H members from all eight livestock barns this year, but felt that having 4-H members try and show all eight species would be too much to ask of them in the short time they would have to prepare for Master Showman.
“This year, as an example, the kids probably got done showing about 5 or 6 on Wednesday night,” she said. “If we did show all eight species, they would have had probably 10 hours to learn eight species to be able to compete in this competition. We felt that was just a little bit too much.”
Dubble said the state level competition only requires presenters to show three species, so they hoped limiting the competition to three on the county level would help prepare them for state.
“We’re hoping our winner works hard over the next three weeks in the next three weeks to be able to be really competitive for Iroquois County when they go to the Illinois State Fair,” she said.