A birthday surprise: Sparks recalls showing champion heifer at Dairy Show

Sydney Sparks poses for a photo on June 8 with Spirit, the heifer she won with at the 2021 Great Jones County Fair. (Photo by Pete Temple)

Kiddie dairy shows such as this one, in 2015, gave Sydney Sparks her introduction to the show ring. She was 3 at the time. (Photo courtesy of Jessie Sparks)
Pete Temple
Express Sports/Ag Editor

   As birthday presents go, this wasn’t bad.

   In last year’s Great Jones County Fair 4-H/FFA Dairy Show, Sydney Sparks showed the Supreme Champion Dairy Heifer, on her birthday.

   Sydney, 10, was in her first year of 4-H, and had only participated in kiddie shows previously.

   Was she surprised by winning?

   “Yeah, a little bit,” Sydney said.

   What made it more surprising was that the heifer she won with, nicknamed “Spirit,” wasn’t exactly behaving.

   “She was pretty crazy on show day,” Sydney said. “She just didn’t want to cooperate. She didn’t lead, she didn’t stand in a straight line, she just wanted to run everywhere.”

   Sydney handled it the way any 4-H member in a show ring would.

   “You just kind of have to deal with it,” she said.

   She said she started working with Spirit in the spring of 2021, and went through the paces of getting an animal ready for a show.

   “You need to get them outside a lot, and spend time with them,” she said.

   Jessie Sparks, Sydney’s mother, said: “She puts a lot of work into it.”

   Sydney said she was “pretty nervous” on show day, but focused on the task at hand.

   “I was thinking about how my animal is going to act, and how I’m going to set her up and stuff,” she said.

   The cow came from Don and Glenda Eilers’ Sandy Hill Guernseys in Scotch Grove, which has produced numerous dairy cows that have performed well in shows and in milk quality competitions over the years.

   “She’s the last of the Eilers grandkids to show,” Jessie said.

   In August, Sydney will get the chance to show at the Iowa State Fair for the first time.

   “They can’t show there (at the state fair) until their second year in 4-H,” Jessie said. “We just go for the experience. The kids love it.”

   Sydney’s siblings Austin and Ashlynn used to show, but have graduated out. Ashlynn was the Jones County Dairy Princess in 2021.

   Sydney is happy to promote the dairy industry. In 2018, she was named Little Miss Squirt for Jones County, and spent the year handing out dairy products at parades and other events.

   “They’re good for you,” she said. “And they’re delicious.”

   Sydney, who will be a sixth-grader at Monticello Middle School this fall, will show Spirit again at this year’s GJCF, as well as three other animals.

   Coincidentally, the show falls on her birthday again. The Dairy Show, traditionally on the Wednesday of the fair, has been moved to Sunday for this year.

   “Hopefully I’ll have as much luck,” she said.



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