When it came to caring for his calf, Daisy, 6-year-old Treyton Overmann knew exactly what to do.
“We lead her at night, we give her hay, we give her water,” he said.
Treyton, of Petersburg, Iowa, was competing in the open class dairy show at the Dubuque County Fair on Saturday morning. It was his second year exhibiting at the event.
“It’s great just being at the fair,” said Treyton’s mom, Jessica Overmann. “We didn’t think we’d be able to have it this year.”
The Dubuque County Fair's open class animal shows have become the highlight of this year's event for many local families, following the elimination of many fair traditions due to concerns related to COVID-19. The shows have also attracted many first-time visitors to the Dubuque County Fair, since they were open to exhibitors of all ages, even those from other states and counties.
Among those taking advantage of the open class dairy show was Molly Olstad of Stoughton, Wis., who was competing at the Dubuque County Fair for the first time.
“My sister’s boyfriend and I own this heifer together and wanted to give her a go, because we haven’t had a chance to show her many other places,” she said.
Molly, 18, has been showing animals since she was 5 years old.
“I have not gone a summer without it,” she said. “I like the atmosphere, the people, the show as a whole and the competition.”
Another first-time attendee was Lane Domeyer, 16, of Delhi, Iowa. Although he wasn’t showing any cattle himself, he had come to help his friends prepare their animals for the event.
“I just like promoting the dairy industry and letting people see that we take good care of our animals,” he said. “And I love when you spend a long time working with a heifer and she does well. All the hours of hard work finally come together and pay off.”
Other exhibitors, however, were veterans of the Dubuque event.
Trenton Hammerand, 18, of Epworth, Iowa, has been showing animals at the Dubuque fair for nine years.
“I like the competition, and the people are always phenomenal,” he said, as he prepared his heifer for the show.
Armed with a hairdryer in one hand and a bottle of “really strong hairspray” in the other, he sprayed the hair on the ridge of the animal’s back to give it a “chiseled” look.
“Most other fairs got cancelled, so it’s been nice to be able to compete here,” Trenton said, leading the freshly groomed heifer through the barn.
Trenton’s younger brother Dominic, 11, was walking his own calf, Milkshake, on an open patch of grass nearby.
He said preparing the animals for the fair was a lengthy process.
“You tie them up, give them water and halter break them,” he said.
In the show barn, owners stood with their animals, carefully leading them around the ring as the judges examined the cattle from all angles.
“It’s just fun to do, and it’s exciting when you win,” said 14-year-old Alivia Shepherd, of Farley, Iowa.
Alivia, who shows dairy cattle and goats, was competing at the Dubuque County Fair for the fifth year. Like her fellow exhibitors, she was thankful that the event could still be held.
“Some people have to sell their animals, so at least they got to show them so that their hard work of how good (the animals) are looking is not going to waste,” she said.
After the winners of each class had been announced and the ribbons distributed, the exhibitors hustled their cattle back to the barns.
Many, including Ashlee Crubel of Lancaster, Wis., were showing multiple cows throughout the morning.
Crubel, 27, owns a herd of cattle and had brought 10 cows to Saturday's event.
"(Showing) is in my blood," she said, recalling her time participating in 4-H activities as a child.
Crubel was excited that the Dubuque County Fair shows were open to everyone, regardless of age or state.
“In Wisconsin, we don’t have hardly any shows this summer,” she said. “Iowa is basically the only place that’s having shows.”
And in a summer that's been full of cancellations and uncertainty, any opportunity to showcase their animals was something to celebrate.
“It’s something I’ll never take for granted in the future,” Molly said. “I’m grateful to be out here on this beautiful day.”