NEW CASTLE —
For Joel Mariacher Jr., the Lawrence County Fair means coming home.
The former Wampum/New Beaver-area resident flew in Tuesday morning to coordinate lamb showmanship.
“It is a homecoming for me,” he said. “I was a 4-H member and a 4-H leader for 10 years before moving to New Hampshire. I was away from (the fair) for five years and missed it so much. This fair, this program, the kids are so dear to my heart.”
Mariacher manages a herd of 250 sheep in New Hampshire but, during the season, he hits the road to shear about 1,500 sheep and 4,000 alpacas.
His daughters — Hope, 12, and Faith, 10, — have made clothes for the wool fashion show known as lead line scheduled for 7 p.m. tomorrow. Faith made a slacks and jacket outfit and Hope designed a knee-length navy dress with a hip-length jacket.
Mariacher said the judge for both show lambs and market lambs is Douglas Bayliss of Rushsylvania, Ohio, who is a fifth-generation sheep farmer but also has raised cattle, hogs and chickens. He judges livestock shows nationwide.
For lamb showmanship, Joe Sniezek of Pulaski, there to watch his daughter, Olivia, win first place, noted the handler, not the lamb, is judged. To that end, Bayliss became teacher as well as judge.
He told the young handlers when a judge approaches the lamb’s right side, they should move to the lamb’s left side or vice versa. This allows the judge’s view of the lamb to remain unimpeded, he said.
Shyanna Adams, a Butler County Community College nursing student, showing Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, said she trains them by tying their rope halter to her waist and letting them follow her around as she does her chores.
Her sisters, Katie, 18, and Shala, 11, also showed their lambs. Shala’s lamb, Alice, tried to break away several times but the girl proved to be stronger than she looks, pulling Alice back to her position.
Bayliss addressed this issue when several other lambs made gazelle-like leaps to freedom, including one who made it. He pointed to Zeb Horchler’s approach with his lamb as calm, cool and collected. Horchler won first place for his handling.
“If you’re nervous, your animal will be nervous and won’t perform.”
Bayliss praised the youngest handlers — in the eight- and nine-year-old age division — for not giving up when their lambs got away from them. Kyle Saylor, 9, in fourth grade at Laurel, admitted he was scared when his lamb, Smokey, tried to get away. Afterward, he said, “It was fun and hard work.”
Bayliss continued to teach during the second part of the event when market lambs — to be sold Saturday — were shown. He described the top three in each class as having qualities to foster: smooth shoulders with well-developed muscles extending down the back over the ribs and ending at a wide hip area.
Joanne Hall of Wampum, whose daughter Amanda showed her lamb, noted the handlers “try to keep the lamb’s front legs straight and together with the rear legs extended behind the hips but not too stretched out.”
Throughout the event, the 8-month-old lambs averaging about 130 pounds kept up a steady flow of tenor, baritone and bass bellows, sounding at times like a protest march or vendors selling popcorn and peanuts at a Pirates game.