Sisters Eliza and Emma Byrum went into the Supreme Showman competition together with one goal: they just wanted one of them to win it.

Eliza Byrum, 15, achieved the goal Wednesday night, winning the Supreme Showman title for the 2019 Howard County Fair. When Eliza’s name was called, Emma Byrum, 16, immediately embraced her sister, grinning.

Eliza has been showing animals for 4-H for seven years and Emma for eight. Emma said they’ve helped each other learn the animals that the other is more versed in.

“I’m really, really proud of her,” Emma said. “She’s put in a lot of time and work into this.”

The 4-H Livestock Supreme Showman competition tests the showmanship skills of the most talented animal-handlers in the fair. It features the five champion senior showmen that emerge from the sheep, goat, horse, cattle and swine competitions in the days prior. Eliza was the champion of the horse competition.

In the Supreme Showman competition, the five 4-H youth each must show all five animals to the best of their ability. None of the animals they must handle are their own and each animal is randomly chosen for each participant.

Luke Vickrey, the judge, said one of the hardest parts of winning the title of Supreme Showman is knowing how to handle all the different species.

“There’s a lot of kids who only show one species,” Vickrey said. “So if they’ve only shown hogs their entire life and all of a sudden they have to show a horse, it’s a big change.”

There were inevitably some comedic animal moments during the show. One goat took several bites out of the paper labeled with its handler's number that was clipped to her waist. A sheep managed to get away twice, but the judge was impressed by how its handler remained calm.

“The young lady never missed a step, she never lost her composure, we got it caught and she went right back to showing it,” Vickrey said. “And that’s important, things like that are going to happen and it’s how you handle it that makes the difference.”

Because Eliza had not shown all the species in competitions, she had to learn a lot from others to compete to the caliber she did.

“It was a big group effort of a lot of people helping,” she said.

The competition was close, according to the judge, and each handler shined in their individual animal category.

“I thought they all did a really great job,” Vickery said. “There was some young kids out here that I thought did really well for their age and really held their composure.”

The key to showmanship, Vickery said, is keeping calm in the ring, no matter what the animal is doing and also setting the animal up properly.

Eliza achieved these showmanship skills and proved her doubting self wrong at the end.

“This was really competitive and it was probably really close,” she said. “I was really sure I wasn’t going to win.”


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