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Talking Turkey at the N.C. State Fair

Judges and participant with a market turkey

If you’ve been following the 2018 Youth Market Turkey Show, you know it was part of a record-breaking year for youth livestock at the N.C. State Fair. Overall, youth drew in $190,000 for their champion animals.

From Poults to Market Turkeys

This year’s show really started in March, when 300 youth from around North Carolina registered to participate. In June, they picked up their poults and began their turkey-raising journeys.

Fun fact: Every turkey you buy in the store is a hen.

The poults grow into market turkeys – the same turkeys you buy for Thanksgiving, Christmas and any special meal.

When we checked in with the show in late August, Dannica Wall told us that response this year was high and positive. Wall coordinated this year’s show and especially helped the 43% of participants new to the show in 2018.

Weathering the Storms

With two hurricanes impacting North Carolina in September and October, the N.C. State Fair postponed its opening. Youth weathered the storms and disruptions to bring their now-market-sized turkeys to the fairgrounds for check-in on October 10.

Each bird was weighed, logged and housed by volunteers from the Prestage Department of Poultry Science and NC State Extension.

Decisions, Decisions

October 12 showed no signs that a hurricane had just passed through Raleigh – blue skies greeted participants who arrived to show their birds for judging by Jesse Grimes, Department Extension Lead, and Carm Parkhurst. Grimes and Parkhurst were assisted by graduate students as they evaluated each bird. Youth answered questions about their turkeys as part of the judging.

A judge talks with a youth participant while holding a turkey
Jesse Grimes asks a participant about her turkey.

Youth presented in three classes: Little Gobblers (5-8), Juniors (9-13) and Seniors (14-18). Classes were each divided into groups of no more than 15. Siblings were placed in different groups within their class.

One grand champion and one grand champion reserve winner were awarded for the Little Gobblers class and for Juniors and Seniors combined.

Auction of Champions

Grand champion and grand champion reserve winners from the Juniors/Seniors class were eligible for the Auction of Champions. In this record-setting year, Talley Farms purchased Laura Jessup’s grand champion turkey for  $7,500 and N.C. Farm Bureau Insurance and McBride’s Concessions purchased Caroline Scarlett’s reserve champion turkey for $5,000.

Little Gobbler grand champion Jaimison Britton
Jaimison Britton shows his Little Gobblers class grand champion.

Sixty percent of the auction money goes to the youth participant and 40% goes toward North Carolina youth scholarships and livestock education programs.

2019 Youth Market Turkey Show

Know a youth interested in participating? Registration for the 2019 Youth Market Turkey Show will open in March. For more information, contact Mary Fosnaught, the new 4-H and Youth Development Extension Associate for poultry.