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A History of Chianina in the U.S., Part 4 | December 2023

Reprinted with permission from the American Chianina Association

by Heather Smith Thomas

Photos courtesy American Chianina Association

50th Anniversary Series

Part 4 - Ladies Auxiliary and Junior Association

Early on, most of the women whose families took Chianina to Louisville weren’t actively involved in the care and fitting of cattle at the National Show. “It was exciting to watch and get to know people from all over the country,” recalls Deb Guens, who with her husband Ken, raise Chianina.

Wanting to be more involved, an enthusiastic group of women held their first organizational meeting in November of 1980. The first Chianina Ladies Auxiliary committee consisted of Kay Burk (Chair), Caren Jacobson, Frances Greenwell, Jane Freytag and Cindy Monroe.

The newly formed Auxiliary had several goals. “They wanted to help promote the breed, provide scholarships to young people and have a National Queen to represent them at the shows. To earn money for their programs they sold T-shirts, jewelry, handmade items, all featuring the flying bull with the American flag and the name Chianina on it,” Deb says.

Sue Comer was president of the Auxiliary in 1983 and 1984. She and her husband Terry have been involved with Chianina for 43 years and reside in Lynn, Indiana. “I remember when I started helping with the Auxiliary, we hauled all the merchandise down to Louisville for our booth,” Sue says. For several years, it required a trailer to haul all the merchandise from show to show. Dana Schrick from Texas and Sue Comer (and their spouses) did a great share of the hauling.

“Ladies of the Auxiliary helped run the booth for the week,” says Sue. “I remember all of us standing on the cement in the barn all day to help raise money. We sold all kinds of merchandise to raise money for the Auxiliary - everything from glasses, shirts, jackets, pins and hats. Sometimes we’d leave there with $8,000 to $10,000 from the merchandise we sold. Now it is impossible to have a booth but we do sell T-shirts and we did a cookbook. We also auction off items at times to raise money to support our National Queen and Princess. Each year we hold a queen contest during the National Junior Heifer Show.” The auxiliary has been a great influence in supporting and encouraging youth.

“When I first started doing the Auxiliary merchandise I needed some place to ship it to, so I contacted the NAILE office and asked if I could send it to them. Jan in the office said that I could send it there, so Jan and I quickly became friends. To this day we have lunch whenever I am in town,” says Sue.

The most successful moneymaker was the auction of heifer bronzes created by artist Galen Struve. Auctioneer Stanley Stout sold 15 bronze statues on July 9, 1983, at the banquet during the ACA National Junior Heifer Show at Platte City, Mo., in conjunction with the dedication of the new ACA building. The 15 bronze heifer statues, signed and numbered, were designed to complete matched sets with the 15 bronze bull statues which were sold at auction during the 1981 National Western show in Denver.

Funds from sale of the heifer statues created a base which earned enough interest in those early years to annually award three or four $1,000 scholarships. The ACA Ladies Auxiliary continues to award at least two $1,000 scholarships each year along with some smaller scholarships, depending on the number of applicants. “We’ve given more than 80 scholarships over the years,” says Deb. The purpose of the scholarships is to assist junior members with their educational goals, whether in the field of agriculture, veterinary medicine or something else.

In 1982, the first American Chianina Queen Committee was formed with Peggy Buck and Sue Comer heading it. The national Queen was selected from Chianina Queens representing the various regions. “We always had 8-10 contestants back then and the competition was fierce. It was a real honor to be asked to interview and select the future National Queen,” Deb says.

“There were a few Auxiliary members who blazed the trail for the rest of us. Kay Burk served on the ACA Board of Directors from 1986 to 1988. There were others we admired because they also worked on the cattle and were able to show them. A few of the ladies were awarded the high honor of Herdsman of the Year. They include Caren Jacobsen, (1989), Barb Ohlrichs, (1991), and Jill Boddicker Miller, (2005).” Jill also served several stints on the ACA Board as a Director and a term as Chairman of the Board. Julie McHale Hanson served as the ACA Board Secretary for many years.

The big event for the Ladies Auxiliary each fall was the luncheon meeting and the day trips. “We went to Churchill Downs, Silvertowne, did some shopping excursions and more. Some of us had children in tow, and they became honorary Auxiliary members. This created some of the relationships that continue today,” Deb says.

“As time went on, it was difficult to get our members out of the barn to get together because more and more of the women had become an integral part of their families’ show team. Luncheons got smaller, but the friendships remained. We sold anything you could imagine. Our booth went from three or four tables of items that had to be hauled all over the country, to one or two tables of silent auction items,” Deb says.

“At that time our meetings and luncheon were held at the Executive Inn across the road from the fairgrounds. Eventually we changed our format and started holding a “Come As You Are” luncheon and meeting in the west hall of the NAILE so the ladies in the barn could just come in their jeans to the meeting. We usually had 25 to 30 women at the luncheon.” This changed as time went on.

Due to schedule changes at the show and the cost of things, the luncheon isn’t held anymore, but the Auxiliary has implemented some events at other shows to allow the group to get together.

Deb joined the Ladies Auxiliary in 1986 and held a board position until about 3 years ago. “I was Secretary-Treasurer at the time. We have some younger women now who are stepping up with some fresh ideas. They sold T-shirts with the brands of a lot of Chi breeders’ farms on them. They’ve also started getting together again at the National Junior Heifer Show. COVID set everyone back a little from the business at hand, but we are now raising funds again, promoting the cattle and keeping up with our good friends.”

To illustrate some of the personal memories, Deb recalls that when her daughter Christina was little, the guys would go off to the barn very early to get all the cattle into the wash rack and be ready for the day and she and the toddler would do their own thing. “I would load Christina in the stroller along with anything else we might need for the day. We walked over to the barn from the old Executive Inn. One day Christina escaped from her stroller and we found her across the aisle, hugging the hind leg of Chiarrow Illustrator. The big white bull stood stock still, waiting to be rescued. That gentle giant reminded me of the old Arabian geldings my family had when I was young. I was hooked on this great cattle breed from that point on.”

Currently Sue Comer is trustee for the scholarships the Auxiliary gives to graduating seniors of the Junior association. “Each year juniors can apply for a scholarship and these range from $500 to $1,000. To date we have given 95 scholarships - a total of $82,000. This past year we had 4 junior members who applied for scholarships,” Sue says.

“The Association used to have a banquet and had a live band come in. They’d give away awards and honor various members. A fun time was had by all who attended. We have a lot of good memories, and made a lot of friends from all over. My kids were with us at the show in Louisville from the time they were born and now have lifelong friends all over the country that they met originally at these shows. Now their kids are showing against the kids of people they showed against. Traditions carry on,” she says.

“Terry and I made many friends over the years. Some of our best friends don’t even live close to us; we’ve met them through cattle. In 2022 we attended the NAILE to watch our granddaughter, Claire show cattle. There is a special network of friends when cattle people get together, with common interest. We have come full circle,” says Sue.

Many families have been deeply involved with Chianina cattle, with the women being a part of the Ladies Auxiliary and their children involved in the Junior Association. Ken Culp III, Ph.D. (Department of 4-H Youth Development, Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Family Sciences, University of Kentucky) says his wife Nancy was on the board of directors of the Ladies Auxiliary at one time, and his daughter Kelsey is now president of the Ladies Auxiliary. “She is also the Queen coordinator. Our son-in-law Derek Evans is also serving on the ACA board of directors; he just began the first year of his second term. Our family has been very active in the ACA and all three of our girls received a $1,000 scholarship from the Ladies Auxiliary,” Ken says.

Jill Boddicker Miller has been involved with all aspects of the breed. “My family in Iowa where I was raised had Chianina cattle that we showed. My parents got started with Chianina in the early 1980’s and my brother and I showed at the 1982 Junior National held in Waterloo, Iowa. I remember showing cattle with some of the early breeders and a lot of the local Iowa people, and even with 5J Chianina who is still active in the breed today. All of us kids grew up showing Chianina cattle together,” Jill says.

Jill adds that the Ladies Auxiliary has been an integral part of it all, with scholarships for junior members and all they do for the kids. “This is the main purpose of our Ladies Auxiliary. Sue Comer, from day one, has supported that program and still supports it. These women are very dedicated and probably don’t get enough recognition. Some of them have put a lot of time, effort and thought into the junior program, and have done a lot over the years with the scholarships and money they have given,” Jill says.

American Junior Chianina Association

In 1978, the ACA Board of Directors approved the establishment of a Junior Association (ACJA). Young cattlepersons under the age of 22 were eligible to become AJCA members. To encourage their participation in ACA activities, an annual National AJCA Heifer Show program was begun. The first AJCA National Heifer Shows were held in conjunction with the ACA National Open Show at the North American Livestock Exposition. In the summer of 1980 the AJCA National Heifer Show was held at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, Mo.

Every year since then a stand-alone AJCA National Junior Show has been staged each summer at various venues across the U.S., with expanded opportunities for junior members to exhibit steers and bulls, as well as participate in many other character-building events. These AJCA Junior National events have grown from a 1-day heifer show to an entire week’s activities, becoming the largest yearly ACA show (the 2023 NJHS bosted more than 350 head of cattle exhibited by more than 400 exhibitors).

Bob Vantrease, who was the third CEO for the ACA, says the Chianina Association has always had a good junior program. “The Junior Association is still probably the major part of it today. It is as good, or better, than the adult program, since so many kids are involved in showing Chianina cattle,” Bob says.

Ken Culp III says the junior program is part of what attracted his family to this breed. “We chose the Chianina Association because we liked the cattle, but also because they had such a good junior program. I am a 4-H Youth Development Specialist by occupation, so working with kids and valuing youth development programs is very important to me,” he says.

It’s great when a breed association has a strong youth program. “The junior members are both the future as well as the life-blood of any breed association. We want to do our part to support the junior program,” says Ken.

“Wayne and I don’t have children of our own but we are firm believers in the junior program,” Jill Miller says. “I was brought up in it. The young people are the future of our breed, especially in today’s world. At the shows in Louisville there used to be big breeders like Black Champ, Horsley, Beller, etc. with large strings of cattle, plus all the junior cattle. Those days are gone. So the success of our junior program is very important to our breed,” she says.

“I am a firm believer in the junior program; our youth need guidance and help and we all need to provide that to them because they are paying attention - especially the younger ones. This is the age to get them interested and developing a good work ethic and focused on something like this. We need the junior members, so we must help them along as much as we can,” Jill says.

Editor’s Note: This is Part 4 of a multi-part series. Watch for Part 5 coming soon.

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