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By Skylar Rispens
Pathfinder 

Seeley Lake Trailblazers prepare for fair

 

August 1, 2019

Skylar Rispens, Pathfinder

Dani Sexton is preparing to show her prime angus steer, Shaquille O'Neal, at the Western Montana Fair in Missoula Aug. 6-10. Shaq is her third steer project with the Seeley Lake Trailblazers.

SEELEY LAKE - Every night since October, freshman Dani Sexton spends nearly two-hours caring for her prime angus steer Shaquille O'Neal. She feeds him, walks him around the pen, bathes him and leads him into a chute to blow-dry him.

When she first got "Shaq" in October, he weighed nearly 660-pounds. This month he weighed nearly 1,290-pounds, just before the Western Montana Fair, Aug. 5-10. She hopes to have Shaq place in the most competitive weight class, which ranges from 1,300-1,375 pounds, at the fair this year.

"I've got a good feeling about this steer," said Dani with a smile.

Shaq is Dani's third steer project with the Seeley Lake Trailblazers 4-H Club. She has participated in the 4-H club since she was six-years-old as a "cloverbud."

Dani learned how to be more confident and responsible through her time in the 4-H program. The program requires her to keep meticulous details in her books that track her progress with her projects, including costs and feeding regimens.

"It's not always about the win, it's about what you learned through the project," said Trailblazers' Organizational Leader Toni Sexton.

4-H offers children the opportunity to develop leadership skills and accountability through a variety of projects. But the projects don't have to be rooted in livestock. Club members can choose to take on projects in robotics, outdoor recreation, quilting, cooking, wildlife biology and others.

"4-H offers a lot of great opportunities," said Trailblazers' Organizational Leader Lori Thomas. "It gives them an opportunity to learn about whatever they want to do, or could possibly want to do"

The Trailblazers' organizational leaders require club members to participate in one demonstration each year. The demonstrations provide the kids with additional practice for public speaking. Club members can choose any subject that interests them for the demonstration.

This year, Levi Webb, Laciey Auchenbach, Christopher Auchenbach and Amanda Thomas will show their sheep projects at the Western Montana Fair. Dani will be showing her steer.

"[The fair] is the highlight of their year," said Lori. "They get to go and show what they've learned and what they've accomplished and share their projects with the community."

Despite the excitement of this year's fair, the Seeley Lake Trailblazers are fearful for their group's future. According to Lori, there are only six active members in the Trailblazers. Toni is afraid the group may have to go into a hiatus next year, meaning the members would have to act independently.

"We don't know how long they are going to hold on with Amanda [Thomas] leaving," said Toni. Amanda served as a mentor to the other sheep projects this year and will be going to college this fall.

The group's leaders claim that there is a lack of interest among both kids and adults in the community.

"I'd like to see more involvement with the kids, I would hate to see it go away," said Lori.. "Unless we get some more interest, obviously, that's what's going to happen."

"We want not only the kids, but we want the parents," said Toni.

Skylar Rispens, Pathfinder

Dani Sexton leads her 4-H project Shaquille O'Neal into a chute so she can blow-dry him. This is something she does daily to prepare for showing at the fair.

According to the leaders, parents play a large role in the club. They are expected to provide oversight for their kids' projects throughout the year, and make sure they attend the required meetings. The 4-H year runs September-August.

"We don't have a lot of parents that want to follow through with the commitment," said Toni.

Another issue leaders have run into is that some families don't have the infrastructure to support a livestock project, and that properties on the Double Arrow Ranch are not allowed to house livestock.

"If you need something for a project, the club helps support any kids that really want to follow through," said Toni. "That's all it's really about, following through."

For more information about the Seeley Lake Trailblazers 4-H Club, or how to be involved, please contact Toni at sexton3@blackfoot.net.

 

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