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A generation of sheep

Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Zach Salzwedel feeds a llama during Wednesday morning's Kid's Day activities at the Jackson County Fair.1 / 32
Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Jackson fire department member Ron Richards (from left) points as Tyler Hendricks, age 8, Elijah Meiumbratrud, 10, and Christian Benda, 8, spray water toward cones during Wednesday's Kid's Day activities at the Jackson County Fair.2 / 32
Submitted Photo Taylor Christopher is shown following his grand champion performance with his sheep at the Jackson County Fair Wednesday.3 / 32
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JACKSON -- Taylor Christopher's grandfather started his sheep herd in 1959.

More than 50 years later, that herd has produced another grand champion. Christopher won the grand champion market lamb and grand champion showmanship Wednesday morning at the Jackson County Fair.

"I've won showmanship before, but this is my first time winning the market show," Christopher said. "It means a lot. I've been doing this for a long time, and it's good to finally get this out of the way.

"In showmanship, I felt like I was going to do pretty good. In the market show, it's hit and miss."

His previous showmanship victory came in the junior division. Wednesday was the first time he won as a senior.

"Basically, in showmanship, they judge you on how well you show your sheep instead of your lamb," Christopher said. "They ask you questions about sheep showing, like how much they eat a day and just questions like that."

To win market lamb champion, "it takes a lot of muscle and structural soundness," Christopher explained.

With his family in attendance -- including his grandfather -- Christopher won both categories.

"My family has been doing this for a long time," he said. "I really like doing this kind of stuff, and it's fun for me."

In fact, his younger brother also took home ribbons Wednesday.

"My little brother, Ryan, got grand champion junior showmanship, so he's doing pretty good, too," he said.

There is a lot of work that goes into a sheep before the few hours of the show.

"It takes a long time," he said. "It's a whole process, since they are little. There's a lot of work once you get to the fair. You have to shear them off and feed them right before the show."

Christopher -- who recently graduated from Jackson County Central High School and will attend Rochester Community and Technical College to play baseball -- has been showing for about 12 years.

"Sometimes we've gone to a show in Omaha before, but I don't know if I'll have time for that next year when I'm at college," he said. "We went to the Spencer Fair last year. We'll go to some open shows around here."

But for now, Christopher is enjoying the fair. He will also show pigs this week.

While the sheep show was going on in the Olson Pavilion, kids were invading the Jackson County Fair.

"Today, we had 158 kids from throughout Jackson County who came in for an eight-learning- station morning," said Ann Henning, coordinator for Kids Day at the Fair. "The kids were divided into eight groups and rotated between the stations at about 15 minutes per station. Their day will end with a lunch, provided by the Pork Chop Open."

The eight stations provided a variety of activities for the kids, who were ages preschool through fifth grade.

"The eight stations are the Prairie Ecology bus, which is based in Lakefield," Henning said. "It's an environmental learning station, and it's a bus they can actually go on. (There is also) the blacksmith shop in the fair village, and they got to see the blacksmith at work in there."

Other stations include the fire and rescue with fire truck; the ambulance and the sheriff's car; the petting zoo, which will be present for the fair's duration; Sanford Health's 'Be Fit' segment; a chicken station where some 4-H members are educating; a 4-H craft station where a 4-H key chain is being made; and a New Fashion Pork station.

"I work for New Fashion Pork -- and we are educating on where is your pork and what products have pork products or byproducts in them," Henning said.

This is the third year of the Kids Day program at the fair.

"We actually geared the program toward 100 kids," Henning said. "We were right at 100 the first year, 112 last year and 158 this year. It's very successful."

Henning was instrumental in transforming the program into what it is today.

"The program was established by myself and members of the Jackson County fair board and Jackson 4-H Extension services who were all very involved in our own county fairs growing up," she said. "We wanted to give as many kids in the county as possible an opportunity to experience the type of fair we had when we were growing up.

"We turned what previously had been the day care day at the fair into a more structured learning opportunity for the kids," Henning continued. "It's only possible because of the sponsorship of the businesses throughout Jackson and the surrounding area who provide the group leaders as well as the businesses and individuals willing to have the learning stations.

At one of the stations, the Jackson Fire Department, ambulance and sheriff's office were giving demonstrations.

"We set up a little time trial where we timed them putting on the turnout gear, and they had to pull the hose out of the truck and spray water at the three cones," said Galen McCarthy, a member of the fire department. "It was something fun for them to do. It got a little warm, so I think the wet water kept everybody cool."

When time allowed, each youth was able to spray water at a ball on a cone a few yards away. According to McCarthy, the kids enjoyed the activities.

"It's a fire truck, everybody loves a fire truck. I don't know anybody who doesn't, especially a kid," McCarthy said. "We like coming out and showing things off for the community. People don't always get to see the trucks up close and actually get to run some of the equipment. Like today, we ran some of the booster line and got to play with some water. Most of the time, kids get to use a garden hose at home -- and this is the real thing."