Erica Willing takes top honors at county fair
DENTON — East New Market 4-H’er Erica Willing triumphed at the Caroline Dorchester County Fair Friday, Aug. 5, winning the 2016 Elite Premier Showcase at the Caroline 4-H Park near Denton.
Willing, a six-year 4-H veteran, took top honors by beating 2014 Elite Showman Paul Saathoff of Denton and Caroline Saathoff of Denton in the four-round livestock handling showcase. Willing earned a trip to the showcase by winning the goat and sheep shows while Paul Saathoff advanced by winning the beef show and Caroline Saathoff used her victory in the pig show to make the showcase.
During the elite showcase, the trio showed pigs, cows, goats and sheep, and answered agriculture questions asked by judge Sam Long of Pennsylvania. Willing’s victory marked the first time a Dorchester County 4-H’er won the Elite Premier Showcase since the counties combined its fairs more than a decade ago.
“This is a really big honor,” said Willing, who was making her fourth and final appearance in the showcase. “I’ve worked really hard for it. It has been a great experience. It is an honor to be a part of a group of great 4-H’ers that have won this in the past.
“Paul and Caroline are amazing showman,” she said. “Paul is very determined, and Caroline is just a great competitor. I knew going up against them would be a tough task.”
A 2015 North Dorchester High graduate, Willing will be entering her sophomore year at the University of Mount Olive in North Carolina. She is studying agriculture education with hopes to one day become either an advisor with the Future Farmers of America or the Maryland 4-H organization.
“The best part about this is all the experiences I’ve had learning about agriculture and being with the animals,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot of myself, things I didn’t think I could do. I’m just really proud to be here.
“I want to thank my mom and my family for all the support they have given me through the years,” she said. “I could not have done this without them.
Willing also earned Reserve Champion for one of her sunset photos she submitted in the fair’s photographer contest. In 2015 at the Maryland State Fair, Willing
earned Grand Champion Showman in the goat category with her doe Gloriana.
Dorchester County 4-H Agent Navonne Owen won the 1997 Elite Premier Showcase and called Willing’s victory a pinnacle moment.
“I’m so proud of Erica,” Owen said. “It is a definitely a pinnacle moment in a 4-H’er career. Having won it myself, I’ve been in her shoes and see what it means to achieve that shining moment.”
The fair opened Wednesday, Aug. 3, with the crowning of this year’s queen, princess and little princess at its royal pageant.
Sixteen-year-old Emilee Coulbourn of Federalsburg won the queen’s crown. This is her second fair title, as she was named Fair Princess in 2011.
“The fair has been a big part of my life since I was little,” Coulbourn said “I’ve always come here. Being able to be a part of handing out the awards, supporting everyone and seeing all the happy faces on all of these hardworking kids is really great.”
The fair gives 4-H’ers a comprehensive competition to showcase their agricultural displays, livestock and pet projects, as well as their baking, canning, culinar y and sewing skills. The 4-H fair also provides a means of educating the public of the importance of farming to the nation and the hard work and talents that go into it.
The title of Fair Princess went to 11-year-old Riley Walstrum of Ridgely. She is the president of her 4-H sewing club and presented a few of her originally crafted projects as her talent. She also enjoys playing lacrosse.
The title of Fair Little Princess went to 10-year-old Skylar Blunt of Greensboro. For her talent, she sang an acapella rendition of “Tomorrow” from Annie. She also enjoys playing tennis.
Owen said the fair went smoothly and enjoyed very good weather a week after the Mid-Shore saw 90-degree temperatures and severe thunderstorms.
“The fair has been wonderful,” she said. “We’ve had great weather, and a great turnout from the community. We’ve had an increase in the amount of entries for the livestock shows. The pigs, certainly, have been the biggest entry. We have more than 50 pigs here for the fair.”
Among the increase in livestock showing included many Caroline County FFA members joining the shows.
Caroline County FFA Advisor Jodi Callahan said she is proud of her high schoolers.
“Some have very limited experience showing livestock, but they were very enthusiastic about participating,” she said and she also showed several pigs during Thursday’s Swine Show. “It is a great learning experience.”
July was the first time North Caroline senior Katie LaBerge showed a pig, and she won the Novice Class at the Talbot County Fair. LaBerge backed up her title at the Caroline-Dorchester Fair by winning the Novice Showman championship at Thursday’s Swine Show.
The fair also featured the cake auction on opening night, kids day on Thursday, dress a goat contest and greased pig competition on Friday. The fair culminated with a livestock auction Saturday and a concert featuring The Fabulous Hubcaps with Flatland Drive as the opening act.
East New Market 4-H’er Erica Willing celebrates winning the 2016 Caroline-Dorchester County Fair Elite Premier Showcase with her award-winning goat and sheep. For more on the county fair, see pages 12 to 15.
Elite Premier Showcase judge Sam Long observes as Paul Saathoff of Denton, Caroline Saathoff of Denton and Erica Willing of East New Market complete for the Premier Showman trophy Friday, Aug. 5, at the Caroline-Dorchester County Fair.
East New Market 4-H’er Erica Willing holds the trophy for winning the 2016 Caroline-Dorchester County Fair Elite Premier Showcase on Friday, Aug. 5. Willing is joined by fellow finalists Paul Saathoff, left, and Caroline Saathoff, right, and judge Sam Long.
East New Market 4-H’er Erica Willing celebrates winning the 2016 CarolineDorchester County Fair Elite Premier Showcase on Friday, Aug. 5, at the fair.