August 30, 2021 at 12:48 p.m.

Glad to be back at the fair

Dodge County exhibitors revel in high-level competition
Matthew Gunst prepares an animal for the show ring Aug. 19 at the Dodge County Fair in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Gunst showed two animals and also took care of a 15-animal string with his sister, Elizabeth Gunst. The Gunsts are from Hartford, Wisconsin.  PHOTO BY STACEY SMART
Matthew Gunst prepares an animal for the show ring Aug. 19 at the Dodge County Fair in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Gunst showed two animals and also took care of a 15-animal string with his sister, Elizabeth Gunst. The Gunsts are from Hartford, Wisconsin. PHOTO BY STACEY SMART

By Stacey [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

BEAVER DAM, Wis. – For many, the county fair is like a family reunion. It is a chance to reconnect with friends who share a passion for showing cattle while telling stories, making each other laugh, and offering a helping hand. Exhibitors find that little can compete with the camaraderie of the county fair.
Unable to reunite last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, smiles filled the faces of exhibitors at the Dodge County Fair Aug. 18-22 in Beaver Dam. On a hot sunny day, 70 exhibitors participated in the junior show Aug. 19 showing 136 head from all breeds.
“I think the dairy show committee as a whole was relieved the fair board decided to hold the fair this year,” said Kyle Bunkoske, superintendent of the junior dairy show. “We wanted the kids to have something to look forward to after missing last year.”
Bunkoske said the idea of putting on a dairy show in 2020 was tossed about but event planners decided against it due to the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. However, when this year came around, and uncertainty lingered in some cases, the committee decided they would host a dairy show regardless of whether or not the fair took place.  
“It’s nice to get back to a little bit of normalcy,” Bunkoske said. “Being able to provide the youth with this activity gives them something to look forward to. They’re happy to have their dairy projects again.”
Competition is fierce at the Dodge County Fair, which hosts both junior and open shows. The caliber of cattle could be described as astounding, which explains why the show is sometimes nicknamed the Dodge Nationals.  
“The amount of good quality animals that come through the ring here is incredible,” Bunkoske said. “It’s a true testament to the breeders in Dodge County. There are a lot of quality breeders in this county who produce really good cows. Our numbers have gone down quite a bit in the last 10 years, but you still can place a hat on the quality being there. When I check cattle into the ring and then see them all standing there, it’s impressive.”
Mandy Sell, the fair’s junior dairy advisor, agreed.
“It’s a pretty competitive fair,” she said. “Nobody messes around here. It’s not just a county fair to people. In addition to the junior show, we have a really good open show and futurity too.”
For Caroline Powers, showing takes special effort but is an experience she treasures. Born with spina bifida, Caroline is paralyzed from the waist down but does not let the fact she is in a wheelchair stop her from showing cattle. The 17-year-old from Columbus is in her fifth year of showing at the Dodge County Fair and also showed at the state fair for the first time this year. Caroline’s fall calf, Pretty, placed fifth in her class at the county fair, earning a blue ribbon.
“Caroline bred this heifer and really wanted to show her,” said her dad, Jon.
The Powers family previously milked 50 cows which they sold in 2018. A student who Jon used to coach in dairy judging bought his herd and promised she would give a calf back to Caroline to show, which was the dam of Pretty. Grady Wendorf helped Caroline show Pretty, leading the heifer while she held on to the end of the leash.
Caroline’s friend, Emma Paulson, is the one who originally got Caroline into showing and offered to help her. Caroline is able to lead smaller heifers while someone helps push her chair. Recently, the Powers bought a first-pick Jersey embryo to be born in September for Caroline to show next year.
“She’ll be a smaller animal, so it will be easier for Caroline to show her,” Jon said. “The Dodge County kids are very supportive of Caroline showing. If they all could step up and help, they would.”
Caroline’s parents installed a wash rack on a blacktop driveway at their home, making it easy for Caroline to work with her animals.  
“I wash my heifer every day,” Caroline said. “I love doing that. I spend the whole summer getting ready for the fair.”
Caroline’s dad agreed.
“She loves being out in the barn,” he said.
Matthew Gunst has been showing at the Dodge County Fair since he was 3 years old, starting out in the little britches competition. Not having the fair last year was a large disappointment to Gunst and his family.
“That was a huge bummer for us,” Gunst said. “The Dodge County Fair is something our whole family has done every year. We really missed it. It was tough.”
Gunst is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota majoring in animal science, and agricultural communications and marketing. Gunst showed two animals this year at the county fair and also took care of and clipped a 15-animal string with his sister, Elizabeth. The Gunsts travel to many shows in the summer fitting animals and also board and raise about 20 heifers in Hartford.
The Dodge County Fair is fortunate to have a large list of sponsors, and every junior exhibitor receives a T-shirt from one of the fair sponsors.
“We have a lot of really good support from dairy businesses that help make the show possible,” Bunkoske said.  
The senior champion of the junior show was a 4-year-old Red and White Holstein shown by Samantha Pitterle of Watertown – Mistik Kreek DE Hala-Red-ET EX-90. The junior champion of the junior show was Crave Upgrade 13435, a Holstein winter calf owned and exhibited by Sara Skalitzky from Waterloo. The supreme showmanship winner was Elizabeth Gunst of Hartford.
“I’ve been coming to this fair since I was a little kid, and my family’s been coming here forever,” said Sell, who is also the state fair advisor for Dodge County – a role she has held for more than a decade. “It’s good to be here. The county fair is your family, and the kids are really happy to be back.”

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