LAWRENCEVILLE - About 1,400 animals, including goats, cattle, pigs, lambs and ewes, will be exhibited in livestock shows at the Gwinnett County Fair this year.
"We have the second largest (fair) show in the state of Georgia," said Bill Atkinson, chairman of the livestock committee.
Livestock shows have been a part of the county fair since it started in 1953 and have grown from drawing competitors from surrounding counties to attracting exhibitors from all around Georgia and from surrounding states.
"We're up there real close to the state show in Perry," said livestock committee member John Lovin, adding Gwinnett's shows are not for profit.
Atkinson said most of the shows are for junior showmen - children and teens in fourth through 12th grades.
There are also open shows for anyone who would like to compete, and cash prizes are given to the owners of the animals placing first through 10th in each class.
"(The shows are) sort of judged like a beauty contest for people," Atkinson said. "(The animals) are judged on structure, their appeal, how they stand, how they walk, the muscle and all they have in them."
"There's a phrase I like to use - form follows function," said Wayne Shackelford, a member of the livestock committee who is coordinating the shows with Atkinson. "What that simply means is that the judge is selecting those (animals) that are functionally sound."
Shackelford said judges in the cattle competitions are looking for structural correctness, sound feet and legs, body capacity, femininity in the females, masculinity in the bulls.
Junior showmen also have the opportunity to compete themselves, being judged in the area of showmanship, which includes the general appearance of the animal, especially the cleanliness, as well as the individual exhibitor's ability to lead and pose his or her animal in the ring.
Taylor Gazda, 15, was one of the junior showmen competing in the ninth- and 10th-grade class showing Angus heifers.
Gazda has been showing livestock since she was in third grade.
"I grew up on a farm and my dad and my mom met through livestock," Gazda said. "My sister showed and my mom showed, so it's kind of like a duty I had to fulfill, and I ended up loving it."
Gazda, an Athens resident, placed first in her class in showmanship. She will also compete Friday, showing her commercial heifer.
Cory Watt traveled from his home in Anderson, S.C., to exhibit for his fourth year at the Gwinnett County fair.
"My father showed when he was younger, and we just growed up in the cattle business," the 16-year-old said. Watt showed his Angus heifer Monday and his Hereford heifer Tuesday.
"I enjoy showing and go to every show I get the opportunity to go to," Watt said.
One junior showmen exhibiting this year has a practical reason for showing livestock.
"(Showing livestock) will help me in my career later on," said 17-year-old Suleica Garcia, who was showing at the Gwinnett County Fair for the second year. "I want to be a veterinarian."
Garcia, who is from Oglethorpe County, said she practiced leading and posing her Angus heifer for about two hours every day leading up to the show.