Tuesday evening, area youth representing 4-H, FCCLA and FFA chapters kicked off the Ellis County Youth Expo’s 22nd annual show. The annual event showcases projects including livestock, crafts and trade skills by youth from throughout the county.

Members of the Midlothian FFA, led by chapter president Erin Mitchell began the expo by leading the opening ceremonies. The ceremony began with the introduction of the Flag of FFA.

“I stand for the young men and women of America who are willing the meet the challenges of the future of agriculture,” Mitchell said.

The next flag introduced was the flag of Texas.

“I represent grazing cattle, fruit laden orchards, green fields of grain, and brightly painted barns,” were the words included during the introduction. 

The final flag presented was the U.S. flag, which was carried by a FFA member who circled the audience before posting the flag on the stage along with the other flags.

“I am the flag of the United states of America. I am whatever you make me, nothing more. I am belief in yourself, your dream of what people may become,” it was said.

After the pledge of allegiance to the American flag and a prayer, the ceremonies concluded, with the first competition categories held. Showing on Tuesday were the broiler and rabbit project animals.

Youth showing broilers received up to 50 hatchlings in February and have been raising them to what they believe to be show quality. They must choose three birds to make up a pen that weighs less than 5 pounds. This year, there were 15 entries for the grand and reserve grand championships.

Returning for his second year of judging was Jacob Coppedge of San Antonio. Coppedge, a Texas A&M graduate, runs the Texas Quail Farms in Lockhart, Texas. This is his fourth year judging throughout the state.

Coppedge began lining up the birds as the contestants tried to control their projects among flying feathers and flapping wings. Many of the contestants had parents, relatives and friends to help show their birds. 

Ashley Granzin, a show veteran of several events, recruited several members of her Red Oak FFA chapter to help display her birds. Competing alongside her was her brother, Trevor, who took the grand champion belt buckle last year.

As Coppedge worked the ring, he began eliminating birds and getting down to his final picks. Halfway through the elimination, Toby Granzin, Ashley and Trevor’s dad, who was helping by holding a bird said, “We’re still standing, but we’re not taking it for granted.

With the choices down to a few birds, Coppedge began announcing the winners.

“The grand champion goes to the lady in the purple shirt,” he said, with Ashley Granzin of Ellis County FFA subsequently identified as the grand champion. Announcing the reserve champion, the second place belt buckle went to Garrett McClure of Midlothian Junior FFA. Trevor Granzin took the third place ribbon.

The other animal groups to compete were the breeder and market rabbits. There were 44 entries in breeder class.  The meat class categories saw about 50 entries. In each of the classes, the animals weight had to be no less than 3 pounds and no more than 5 pounds.

Both categories fell under the scrutiny of judge Carroll Hooks of Moody, Texas. Hooks has been a breeder for most of her life and has been a show judge for more than 40 years.

This is the second year for the international qualified judge.

“I’ve judged all over the world, including Japan and countries in Europe. But I’d rather judge the county and especially the youth shows. I love working with the kids and like the one-on one with the contestants. I want this to be a learning experience,” Hooks said.

The meat categories took the longest with each animal being evaluated for several characteristics. As Hooks evaluated each rabbit, she gave pointers to the contestants on how to improve their animal or what she was looking to see.

In the breeder category the first place winners announced were Cristina Defractos, senior doe, and Payton Baran – junior doe. The top junior buck award went to Rachel Edgan with the senior buck award going to Kristen Lumbley.

The best of went to Cristina Defractos and the best of opposite sex was awarded to Kristen Lumbley.

Belt buckles were awarded to the pen classes and showmanship categories. The grand champion buckle was awarded to Carson Almand with the reserve grand champion going to Lexi Monday. Both Almand and Monday represent the Midlothian FFA.

Showmanship awards went to Jacob McCoy, who took the senior award, and Samantha Garcia, who took the junior recognition.

Wednesday night will be the market lamb and goat shows. The show continues through the week with heifers and steers being exhibited Thursday and swine on Friday. The show culminates Saturday with the winner’s sale.

Besides the animals there will be competitions in shop projects, creative arts and photography. The judging and showing in these classes will be Thursday.