MANHATTAN, Kan. — Everyone knows that feeling you get when something special is about to happen, then anticipation, excitement, tingle, the thrill. Now multiply that one hundred times, and you might understand what happens to junior cattle exhibitors as they walk into the Grand Drive of the Aggieville Showdown.
“I get goosebumps just thinking about last year’s Grand Drive,” McKenna Richardson said as she enthusiastically recalled the 2022 Aggieville Showdown. As the ramp of her cattle trailer dropped, Richardson, from Eureka, Kansas, wasn’t mentally prepared for the Showdown experience and walking her Simmental heifer through the crowd to the show ring in the heart of Aggieville, Manhattan, Kansas. For someone who shows at major shows and junior national, that’s a big statement.
Not only is the Aggieville Showdown location distinctive, but more importantly, the crowd! With an ax-throwing venue on one side and a bistro on the other, patrons from the eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and bars, many of whom have never been to a cattle show, surround the show ring on Moro Street. Last year over 1,000 people watched the Grand Drive for prospect steers and breeding heifers.
The philosophy of educating non-agriculture people about the cattle industry was the driving force behind the development of the Aggieville Showdown by Founder and Executive Director Christian Calliham.
For people whose only knowledge of the cattle industry is they like their steak medium rare, the Showdown is a unique opportunity to witness the dedication and hard work of livestock exhibitors and learn about the cattle industry.
Richardson said that the crowd recognizes the significance of what is happening in the show ring. She laughed, recalling her dad felt a bit like a celebrity when people realized his daughter was showing and named reserve champion.
Now gearing up for the third show on April 1, the Aggieville Showdown brings exhibitors ages 8 through 25 from across the country to the Riley County Fairgrounds. The show for prospect steers, breeding heifers, and showmanship begins at 9:30 AM, and division winners travel to downtown Aggieville for the ultimate Grand Drive experience that evening.
With over $7500 in cash prizes, the Grand Drive is the marquee event, but the Ville is alive with other activities as part of the Showdown. A western fashion show by Vanderbilt's, live music, vendors, and even an after-party at the Yard Bar.
Live interviews at the Drive’s conclusion allow the exhibitors of the champion animals and the premier showman to tell “their story” about their experience at the Showdown.
While Lauren Fredrick from Hutchinson, Kansas, wasn’t in the Grand Drive, she was on stage as the premier showman, besting 105 other exhibitors from seven states. Fredrick was excited to share how the cattle industry has made her who she is today.
“I’ve never been a shy person and being able to stand up on stage and talk about something I am so passionate about is truly special.”
She acknowledged the Aggieville Showdown is quickly becoming a prestigious show, and younger exhibitors may be intimidated to exhibit. The articulate 21-year-old is winding up her show career and said the Aggieville Showdown is an exceptional opportunity for all cattle exhibitors, and younger exhibitors must “put themselves out there.” While they might not make it to the Drive, they can excel at showmanship or just come to the Drive and experience the excitement of the show ring and keep working to be in the Drive.
“Knowing that younger exhibitors hear me, someone not much older than them, be able to have a platform to share about our industry and what it does for us is a cool experience. There are no other shows but the Aggieville Showdown where you can do that.”
Richardson and Fredrick said it was hard to describe the Aggieville Showdown experience. They both acknowledged the only way to understand how unique the Aggieville Showdown truly is – is to be there.
For additional information about the Aggieville Showdown on Saturday, April 1, including entry fees and deadlines, go to www.aggievilleshowdown.com.
— Toni Riley, Aggieville Showdown