Jasper Suess, 3, used both hands to lift a cage half his size containing his plymouth rock chicken. He proudly walked it around the barn to show spectators during Sunday's Pee Wee Livestock Show at the Jefferson City Jaycees Cole County Fair.
All eyes were on Suess — wearing overalls, a plaid shirt and cowboy boots — as he flashed a big smile while holding his bantam-sized chicken.
"He's trying to grow chickens like his sister," dad Jesse Suess said.
Suess was just one of several youth to share the spotlight during Sunday's events, which included the Pee Wee Show and Clover Kids Small Animal Show. Clover Kids is a 4-H program for youth younger than 8 years old.
The Pee Wee Show featured 20 youths ages 3-7, although organizers allowed children younger than 3 to participate if they wanted. One of the youngest in the show was 1-year-old Emery Kautsch, who showed a gilt, a young female pig, with friend Maggie Thessen, 7.
The two girls used their pig whips to try to coral the sometimes wayward pig as they walked it around the competition area.
Sara Kautsch, Emery Kautsch's mother, said she and her husband live on a farm and sell show pigs.
"She's learning early," Sara Kautsch said about her daughter. "She's been around them her whole life so far, and she will continue. She really enjoys feeding them with her daddy."
The crowd of mostly family and friends eagerly watched and applauded all the youths, even in the non-competitive Pee Wee Show.
The fair royalty competition featured seven girls in the princess and queen categories. Meagan Forck, 17, was named queen and Emma Eiken was named princess. Forck attends Helias and Eiken goes to Blair Oaks High School.
"It feels great," Forck said after she was crowned. Competitors went through interviews and wrote 500-word essays on the future challenges of agriculture.
Forck and Eiken wrote essays with a similar premise: Misinformation and miscommunication can wrongly give agriculture a bad name. Among other things, animal rights groups sometimes spread misinformation about the industry, they said.
"It feels great putting in all that effort and then getting to see the results that come out of all that hard work," Forck said.
Today at the fair, admission is free. The Market Beef Show starts at 12:30 p.m. The Bucket Calf Show starts at 6 p.m., followed by the Breeding Beef Show. Local band Murphy's Ford performs at 9:30 p.m.