Family and hard work.
If there's two values that sum up the livestock competitions at the Kern County Fair, those seem to be it.
"We always said kids don't raise the livestock, the livestock raises the kids," said Hannah Hawkesworth, whose family breeds show pigs in Rosedale and was there Tuesday afternoon in support of her neighbors, Bull Cole, 12, and his sister Reagan, 15, who were showing several pigs bred by Hawkesworth's family.
At 20 years old, Hawkesworth has aged out of the fair but she took on a big sisterly air of pride talking about all the competitions the Coles had won, amassing a trove of ribbons and belt buckles.
Hawekesworth said she witnessed over the years how Reagan Cole's interest in pigs has rubbed off on younger brother Bull, who had just won the Kern Bred and Fed competition, exclusively for pigs that were born and raised in the county.
"It's awesome to see it become a family thing," Hawkesworth said.
"They've worked really hard," said their father Sterling Cole III, who described how his son and daughter woke up at 5 a.m. all summer long to feed and water their pigs, and then returned two more times throughout the day to tend to them, sometimes not returning home until after 9 p.m.
Nearby, Kern Valley High junior Alexis Silva was on barn duty for her school's FFA group, ensuring all the lambs had water and no one was getting into their pens. Silva said her mom, who had grown up in the area, had shown animals at the fair and encouraged her to get involved in the program when the family moved from Missouri back to the Kern River Valley earlier this year. Silva was showing two lambs — Malfoy and Huffle — and plans to show a dairy cow next year.
"It really teaches you how to be responsible," she said, "because you have to be there to take care of them every day."
Her lamb Malfoy ended up weighing 138 pounds and Silva hoped he would fetch a good price at auction to help pay for her cow next year.
Emily Wise, a 16-year-old who attends Bakersfield Christian High School, raised a beef steer named Gus that was purchased from a breeder in Missouri and raised on her family's ranch in Shafter. Like many other fair kids, Wise described early mornings and late nights spent caring for the steer, especially in the past three months leading up to the fair. She also helped out younger sister Ellie, 13, who has Down Syndrome and showed a steer this year named Max.
It was her first year showing steer but Wise took top prize both in her class and then again in a competition among all four breeds of steer.
"All the hard work paid off," she said.