Livestock shows are a staple of Oklahoma. The bond between animals and students, especially children, is an illuminating experience. Grand champion smiles were especially radiating from the Chisholm Trail Expo Center in Enid, Okla. during the second annual Gold Star Classic-AFR Special Needs Livestock Show.
On Sept. 12, twenty-five special needs students from the surrounding area, and 75 FFA and 4-H volunteers from across Oklahoma, came together for friendship, purple banners and Gold Star memories. Each Gold Star participant was paired with two youth volunteers who helped guide the students throughout the day.
“It filled me with great pride,” Sue Hileman, Burns Flat-Dill City School, Special Olympics coach, said. “Just to see all the caring that is out there, and those students with special needs being spotlighted is pretty awesome.”
The Gold Star Classic allows Oklahoma students with special needs the opportunity to interact with livestock animals in a petting farm environment before the livestock show. This year’s Petting Farm featured a horse, a calf, a baby goat, a baby sheep, and a pig.
For the livestock show portion, Gold Star participants exhibited a lamb or goat, along with their show buddies, in the show ring. This year’s Gold Star Classic judge, Marty Jones, interacted with each Gold Star participant and asked candid questions to help the audience learn more about each participant’s unique personality. Each Gold Star participant was awarded a gold medallion, a banner and a stuffed animal to remember this special day, as well as photos expressing their golden smiles.
“This is truly one of the best youth events in my opinion,” Vanessa Wiebe, AFR/OFU Cooperative Youth Coordinator, said. “The radiant smiles saw throughout the day from the Gold Star participants and our youth volunteers is just one reason why this event is such a moving experience.”
Wiebe said this event allows Oklahoma youth to showcase their passion for livestock and helps grow the act of service and leadership.