Anna Kuhn’s mouth dropped in surprise when her animal was declared the grand champion during competition Wednesday afternoon at the Ellis County Fair.
But this wasn’t your typical cattle or horse show that often is associated with 4-H fair activities. Kuhn’s little champion was a 3-month-old kitten, Camo.
The playful kitten has been living on Kuhn’s family farm near Ellis for the last two months. The family took a litter of three kittens, but Camo — a tabby/calico mix — is definitely her favorite, Kuhn said.
“She is very playful, and so are her siblings,” said Kuhn, a 14-year-old member of the Ellis Sunflowers 4-H club.
The curious kitten was quick to make friends with the event judge, Megan Figger, a guest judge and a veterinarian in Stockton.
“She’s a little spitfire,” Figger told Kuhn during judging as the kitten playfully batted at her fingers.
Camo soon had something else to play with — Kuhn's large purple ribbon. Reserve champion went to Elijah Raub of the Big Creek Astros club.
There were six cats in the contest, and Figger asked each child age-appropriate questions about their felines’ history, temperament and medical care. She also took into account the physical appearance of each cat and the way the children and pets interacted.
Figger also judged a small pets contest at the fairgrounds Wednesday morning, and said she enjoyed the experience. That contest drew everything from snakes to fish to snails.
“I had a little girl tell me all about snails earlier. And I don’t know very much about snails,” Figger said. “So I learned a lot.”
The pet judging contests provide an opportunity for 4-H children who might not live on a farm to also get involved and showcase their talents, she said.
“It’s nice for them, if they have kind of a different passion, it’s nice for them to share their passion and be acknowledged for it,” Figger said.
While Camo the kitten was new to the 4-H contest, other cats were veteran contenders. Ozzy, an 8-year-old grey tabby, has won grand champion in two previous years.
The 17-pound feline was a rescue from the Humane Society of the High Plains. He lives indoors and outdoors, and is known to bring his family “trophies” from his hunting, said Morgan Olmstead, 14, as Ozzy vocally protested being confined in his carrier.
But he’s also sweet and cuddly with his family, said Olmstead, Hays, a member of the Gemini Juniors 4-H club.
“He always sleeps with me,” she said.
Like many of the other competitors, the fair week is a busy one for Olmstead, who also competes in horticulture, floriculture and foods.
4-H competitions and activities continue at the fair through Saturday, and some animals are on display throughout much of the week. A full schedule of Ellis County Fair events can be found at elliscountyfair.com.