Twila Slease was diagnosed with spina bifida at birth, with a portion of her spine outside her body, according to her uncle, Tim Slease.
Doctors said she would never walk.
But no one would have known any of that on Friday as the 22-year-old not only walked but smiled brightly as she showed a Hampshire-Suffolk cross lamb named Patrick at the Alternative Stock Show Classic at the fairgrounds, where she won grand champion in the lamb division.
The stock show classic, which drew as many as 200 attendees this year, is a chance for youth and adults with developmental disabilities to show an animal in the arena.
“This is great,” Tim Slease said, as he watched his niece compete.
Slease was one of 16 individuals who participated in the event, which is in its fourth year. Each individual was paired with a team of three to four 4-H and FFA assistants, who guided participating showmen and women through the process of feeding, grooming and walking an animal before they were guided through the process of showing it before judges.
Ready, set, show!
Preparations for the stock show classic have been in the works for three to four months, according to organizers.
But once the clock starts on the day of the stock show classic, all the preparation culminates to less than one hour to teach the basics.
“You have 30 minutes to teach them how to get ready for the show,” said Traci Reed, to 4-H and FFA assistants who helped organize the event.
Judges walk about looking for those who took extra care for and control of their animal, including 4-H assistants who were awarded high marks at the 2018 fair.
‘You’re all great showmen’
All participants are recognized for their devotion to the animals and their enthusiasm for showmanship.
“You’re all great showmen and you’re all great champions in my heart,” one of the judges told participants.
Participants were especially elated to win, including Heather Bormann, who won grand champion for showing a pig.
“Thank you!” Bormann said, her face illuminated with excitement as she shook a judge’s hand.
It is Bormann’s second time garnering a grand champion award.
For others like Stephan Williams, he’s participated each of the last three years. Williams won grand champion for showing a goat this year.
As Williams brushed his goat from a wheelchair prior to showing her, FFA assistant Baylee Rogers shared her enthusiasm for the event.
“I just love being able to help do whatever I can to make sure that they get to enjoy the fair as well,” Rogers said.
This year, she said she wanted to let participants like Williams experience as much as possible.
“I want him to get the experience of doing what we do and having fun, because that’s what really matters,” Rogers said. “I want him to be able to experience what this fair is about.”
Reserve grand champion awards were also distributed, including to Seth Kleiner for showing a lamb. The reserve grand champion awards for pigs and goats were unavailable as of press time.
Chelsea Shearer, organizer of the event, helped start the show in 2015 after she saw a video of a similar stock show on social media.
She sees the event as a chance for 4-H and FFA participants to give back to their community, one of the pillars of what they do.
“That’s what 4-H is based on is giving back to the community,” Shearer said.
Twila Slease clutched a purple ribbon and a backpack as she posed with 4-H participants for photos at the end.
While it was her first year participating in the stock show, she is also a Special Olympics participant in the 50-meter and 100-meter walk, 100-meter relay and shot put.
“I’m sure she’ll want to do it again,” said Tim Slease.