CLARK COUNTY — Sixty years ago, John Neofes began showing cattle as part of Clark County 4-H. In the 10 years that followed up to 1969, he won championship after championship.
His roots run deep in the industry, as his father was part of the original dedication of the new Clark County Fairgrounds in 1963.
"We used to show behind the old Charlestown High School," Neofes said of his early days in the 4-H program. "When this new site was built, my dad got the Fort Knox band and marched all the way down Highway 62 to dedicate these buildings."
Though his family left the dairy industry shortly after, Neofes continued to give his time to the 4-H program, taking part in each year's festivities.
"We got out of the dairy business in 1971, but I still kept this Clark County dairy going, and I don't want to quit," Neofes said. "I've been a true 4-H'er all my life, and I don't want to see this place run down."
On Wednesday, Neofes continued to do as much as he could to assist competitors at the Clark County 4-H Fair as the dairy barn chairman. Now, his hope is to spread the passion he had as a young man to a new generation.
"I get the kids to buy little calfs of different breeds," Neofes said. "We have 11 down here this year. We're going to make the best of it. We always do. I just love them, and I love this place."
The farming situation in Clark County isn't what it once was, Neofes and others said.
According to beef barn chairman Bryan Crace, there is only one dairy farm left in all of Clark County. But newcomers still show up each year with livestock to show.
"The urban sprawl and commercialism of the county is definitely having an effect," Crace said. "There might be one dairy farm left in Clark County, whereas years ago it was predominately livestock. A lot of the families that are here are generational showmen, but 25 percent are newcomers. We love that."
Since people started arriving over the weekend, Crace said over 40 head of beef and dairy have come in. Showing them are people ranging from first-year members to 10-year members.
Wednesday night's activities included the dairy and beef shows.
"Once the kids exhibit, they'll have a chance to sell them at auction Friday," Crace said. "It's a good way to support the kids with a tax-deductible donation. We would appreciate any support anyone wants to give. Team up with your neighbors and buy some beef. You can't beat the meat here, and the kids work hard. They deserve it."
Among those competing to show the best animal was 12-year-old Tanner Meyer, who first joined in the activities in 2015 when he was 8 years old.
"I've showed goats and pigs," Meyer said. "This will be my first year showing cows. I just enjoy cows, and I like being around cows. I've always been fond of them. You have start working with them a lot earlier, because they're much bigger animals and harder to control. The earlier you get to working with them, the better."
Whereas Meyer gets fulfillment from working with the animals, Scottsburg High School sophomore Blake Finchum said the people he meets during the week make it all worth it.
"I like coming out and having people in my tent," Finchum said. "They're all really good people, and they're my friends. It's just fun having everybody together for a week. I like the competition. It's a good time."
Something both of the young competitors agreed on is their belief that more people their age need to get involved with 4-H. From their perspective, it's good for personal growth and the community as a whole.
"If you live in the city and you don't have much of an agriculture background, you can come to 4-H and start growing plants," Finchum said. "You can start showing cattle if you connect with the right people. It's really good to make those connections and meet new people."
Crace also said that he would love to have more members come into the program. One way he is trying to do so is by getting in the schools. The experience of 4-H, he said, is like no other.
"We're trying to get into the schools in the urban areas," Crace said. "We want participation, and it doesn't have to be livestock. We just want kids in 4-H. You can't find a better program than this."