Hard work pays off for Vajnar brothers
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
The theme of this year's Ellis County Fair is "There's Magic in the Fair."
And it seemed almost magical Wednesday when three brothers in the Good Hope 4-H Club, all competing in the junior division for 7- to 13-year-olds, dominated the swine show at the Ellis County Fairgrounds.
Conrad Vajnar, 12, was named junior grand champion in the 4-H swine showmanship competition, while younger brothers Cyrus, 7, and Colton, 10, earned overall grand champion and reserve grand champion, respectively, for their market hogs.
Older brother also was in the running for top honors for best market hog, too.
They will tell you, though, it was less magic and more hard work while finding the road to success.
"The key to it is you want them to know that the show stick is how they are guided," said their father, Curt Vajnar. "And that takes working with them a lot."
The brothers attend some area spring shows, then begin working with their animals on their farm southwest of Antonino -- the two oldest boys also brought beef projects to the fair -- at least once a week a month before the fair. They then increase that to every single day during the two weeks leading up to the start of the fair.
Curt Vajnar has seen a lot of youngsters succeed in similar events in his 20-plus years as agriculture education teacher and FFA sponsor at Hays High School.
But, he admitted, it's even more special when it's his own sons.
"I've got a lot more invested, for sure," he said.
Dad also knows every judge is looking for a little something different.
For example, "I thought his pig was the best," Curt Vajnar said, pointing to Konrad. "The judge saw something different, but we'll take it."
Cyrus, in his first year of officially being able to participate in 4-H -- he was a Cloverbud previously -- was all smiles after collecting the big dark purple ribbon for grand champion.
"He thinks he's a pretty big dog now," Curt Vajnar said.
Their dad said he might have to buy his little guy a bigger cap. Cyrus also made it to mutton busting nationals in Lincoln, Neb., last year and advanced to the finals, where he placed fifth.
He still has a ways to go to catch big brothers, though.
For Colton, Wednesday's performance was the third reserve grand championship of this year's fair as he also was reserve champion for a pillowcase and a baby quilt he entered.
Conrad and Colton are scheduled to participate in this evening's 4-H beef show at the livestock arena, and Conrad already is eligible to compete in Friday's championship fitting and show contest along with the winners of the showmanship winners in the beef, sheep, goat and horse competitions.
If he happens to win tonight's beef showmanship title, he would have to choose which one to compete in at the fitting and show contest Friday.
Nothing could match his swine showmanship record, though. Wednesday's performance was the fourth consecutive grand championship effort for Conrad, who is in his fifth year in 4-H.
"Lot of hard work," Curt Vajnar said. "But it pays off."