Next year will be the 25th Anniversary of the Hoosier Beef Congress, one of the largest, if not the largest, premier youth beef show in America. Held each year the first weekend in December, it captures the youth's desire to show their new project animals with the family's desire for a weekend getaway between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's a perfect formula that had surpassed what organizers could have hoped for 25 years ago.
It works because of people like Bob Bishop, Steve Gunn, Keegan Poe, and many more who volunteer their time to see that the show comes together each year. Their dedication indicates that the show will continue.
Bishop, Leesburg, is typically in charge of setting up for and operating the show. A crops farmer with lots of irrigated land, he still has a love for cattle in his blood. His grandchildren also exhibit at the Beef Congress. You won't find him in the limelight. Instead, you have to look for Bob in the background, where the work gets done.
His wife, Juanita, helps make sure that the show has a woman's touch. She quips that she can always count on two vacations in Indianapolis a year, one during state fair and one for the Beef Congress in December. If you appreciate the Christmas trees in the corner of the ring and the lights that dangle down along the show arena, she's one of many people you can thank for seeing that those small touches reappear every year.
Bishop enlists the help of many people to pull off the show. This year, as for the past three years, members of the Franklin FFA chapter assisted behind the scenes. On Wednesday, 12 members spread mulch eight inches deep across the four huge show rings. They completed it in record time, polishing off the rings about 2 p.m. on Wednesday. A show is definitely going to happen once the rings are prepared! At that point, there's no stopping it.
FFA members returned each day, normally 12 to 13 each day, often different members, to sweep aisles, scoop up manure, hand out ribbons, and do whatever needed to be done. It's hard work, but the kids enjoy it. For the younger kids, it's often their first time working an event in front of that many people.
Poe, also a regional representative for Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc., is in charge of both sale rings at the show. Sales of various breeds and crossbred cattle happen on Saturday mornings each year.
Using student help and whomever else he can find, Poe prepares both rings, topping it off with ground corn cob bedding supplied by Beck's Better Bedding. Beck's Hybrids entered that market a few years a go when they decide they could market cobs left after seed corn is shelled off to recoup some extra value to their operation.
Poe may only live 30 minutes away, but his father is in charge of his Simmental herd for the week. All his time is focused on the Beef Congress.
Hard work by volunteers and semi-volunteers who care — that's what makes this Hoosier tradition work. It will also guarantee that it will continue.