The 26th annual Ellis County Youth Expo wrapped up a week’s worth of competition and other activities with a livestock sale Saturday. Hundreds of people were on hand to enjoy a barbecue luncheon and support the sale, which kicked off with the grand and reserve champion winners entering the ring for bid.

In his opening remarks, show announcer Steve Massey described the expo as “the greatest show on earth – and anywhere else.”

“I’ve often said you can leave Ellis County, but you’re usually always ready to come back,” he said before thanking everyone for their attendance and also their support throughout the year as the youth work on their animal and shop projects.

“We want to thank the parents, the grandparents and others,” Massey said. “This is one of the few programs where you are able to work side by side with your kids.”

First in the ring was Freddy, a Maine shorthorn cross steer shown to the grand championship by Bailey Eubank of 4-H Italy. After a spirited round of bidding, Waxahachie Autoplex purchased the steer for $10,000 – and promptly gave the animal back to her as an additional gesture of support for her efforts. This was a fourth grand championship for Eubank, the last three of which have been consecutive.

Massey noted that Freddy was the second grand champion offspring of a cow originally purchased by Eubank’s late grandfather. “I can’t help but feel that he’s back here today with you,” Massey said to Eubank before exhorting the crowd for bids, saying, “She’s a hard worker and she’s got a good steer.”

With her youth show career now behind her, Eubank said she is looking forward to attending Blinn College before transferring to Texas A&M University, where she’ll complete a major in agricultural communications.

Additional sale results (championship, exhibitor, purchaser, bid price):

• Grand Champion Lamb – Katelyn Caldwell of Midlothian FFA – R.E. Watson – $5,000.

• Grand Champion Goat – Morgan Key of Midlothian FFA – Waxahachie Autoplex – $11,000.

• Grand Champion Swine – Jayden Phillips of Ennis FFA – Roberts Recycling – $10,000.

• Grand Champion Rabbit – Kross Cate of Italy FFA – Mill Creek Ranch – $3,750.

• Grand Champion Broiler – Jeremy Robinson of Palmer FFA – JK Excavation – $2,500.

• Grand Champion Wood & Metal Design – Jacob Garza of Milford FFA – CPX Trucking – $3,500.

• Reserve Champion Steer – Anna Arnold of 4-H Ennis – Waxahachie Autoplex – $8,000.

• Reserve Champion Lamb – Dana Davis of Midlothian FFA – R.E. Watson – $5,000.

• Reserve Champion Goat – Shaylee Otto of Midlothian FFA – Waxahachie Autoplex – $5,250.

• Reserve Champion Swine – Ashlyn Summers of Midlothian FFA – R.E. Watson – $5,000.

• Reserve Champion Rabbit – Ty Turner of Maypearl FFA – Southern Truckload – $5,000.

• Reserve Champion Broiler – Jeremy Robinson of Palmer FFA – CPX Trucking – $2,000.

• Reserve Champion Wood & Metal Design – Ty Mitchell of Palmer FFA – Ratliff Ready Mix –$3,000

More than 800 animals were entered in this year’s competition, with the top 25-percent going through Saturday’s sale. In addition to the livestock show, competitions were held earlier in the week for shop projects and creative arts.

“I thought the week went pretty well,” show chairman Joey Isbell said. “I was pleased. We’ve had a really good turnout this year.”

Isbell’s thoughts were echoed by county extension agent Mark Arnold, who agreed the week had gone smoothly. “I’m looking forward to a good day today,” he said. “We’ve got lots of people here. We’ve had good weather; it’s been nice.”

A new addition this year was the production of a show catalogue, with proceeds from its advertising sales going toward youth grant awards.

“We were able to give $500 to every grand champion and we have 30 $500 grants the youth can apply for to go toward the purchase of an animal for next year’s expo,” Isbell said. “[The catalogue] worked out great.”

County Commissioner Pct. 4 Kyle Butler was on hand to show his support for the youth expo. As a youth, he showed lambs – and he anticipates his children will begin doing so in the near future.

“It was a very good experience,” he said of his family having raised and shown lambs. “It’s lifelong skills you develop. Whatever you do with FFA or 4-H is good.”

As the sale approached Saturday afternoon, the expo center was busy with activity as those exhibitors who had qualified for the sale readied their animals for a final presentation in the ring. Bidders showed their support of the youth expo program with their purchases, with several of them, instead of sending their purchase for processing for themselves, choosing to either donate the animals back to the youth or to the local children’s homes. The donations to the children’s homes are sent to a processor with the meat then delivered to the homes, said Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown, who helps organize that project.

Brown expressed his appreciation to everyone who donated an animal during Saturday’s sale, saying, “It’s all for the kids and giving these homes a hand in ensuring they have some good food throughout the year.”

Official show photographer Willie Gomez says he’s found plenty of reward in traveling the livestock expo circuit from mid-November to late spring. He’s handled the Ellis County event for about eight years now.

“It’s very rewarding because I get to see the leaders coming out of these youth,” he said. “This is a springboard to what they can become; it’s a stepping stone. I get to see these kids grow up and it’s sad when they grow up and move on because you get attached to them. They’re like your kids too.”

He finds purpose not only in taking portraits of the youth and their livestock but also in snapping candid photographs throughout the week. “I want to capture those moments so when they look back at their photos years from now they remember it,” Gomez said. “It’s about capturing that emotion.”  

A number of scholarships also were awarded during Saturday’s activities. Those included:

• Ellis County Youth Expo Scholarships of $1,000 each to Cole Macon, Jaclynn Lewis, Bailey Eubank, Matthew Mitchell and Hailey Drerup.

• Ellis Youth Beef Supporters Scholarships to Tyler Woods ($2,000), Matthew Mitchell ($1,000), Bailey Eubank ($1,000), Kayla McCabe ($1,000) and Amy Carrington ($1,000).

• Perserverance Awards of $500 each to Dalton Allen and Cody Ashemore.

• W.D. “Hank” and Lila Wyatt Scholarship Awards of $500 each to Tyler Woods and Shannon Butler.

Each grand champion exhibitor also was presented a pair of boots from Lone Star Western & Casual.