HARRISONBURG — From a bird’s-eye-view, those viewing the Market Lamb Show at the Rockingham County Fair can witness an individual walk in and out within a few minutes.
The concentration seen within each contestant’s eyes can be seen from seats located furthest away from the ring.
The show may finish as quickly as it started, but the preparation for the few minutes in the spotlight is a season-long commitment.
Gena Day-Miller, 16, of Bridgewater, started getting her lamb ready for the senior showmanship by trimming the lamb’s fur and making sure the lamb was clean and ready to go on Sunday.
But below the surface, preparation of the show started months prior.
Day-Miller has experience competing in the Market Lamb Show featured at the Rockingham County Fair. For the last four years, she has tried her shot at placing at the show. With 2020 being her last year she can compete, the show is becoming bittersweet.
Day-Miller grew up with a background in lambs. Her father competed in lamb shows, which led to Day-Miller stepping up to the plate.
The more she competes, the higher the competition.
“It gets easier and harder each year,” Day-Miller said. “I have to challenge myself more each time I do it.”
In order to compete in the lamb show, first you need to get a lamb — which Day-Miller got her lamb in April.
From April until the opening day of the Rockingham County Fair, Day-Miller is training her lamb for the show for three hours every day.
Every morning and evening she checks on her lamb and feeds it. In between that time she has her lamb walk on a treadmill for roughly 20 minutes. Afterwards she walks the lamb up and down her family’s driveway.
Once it gets closer to the show, it is time for the more cosmetic features to be addressed.
On the day of the show Tuesday, Day-Miller arrived to the fair around 11:30 a.m. to do final preparations.
“I sheared the lamb, washed it, cleaned its ears and once it was ready to go, had it sit in the pin until it was time to go,” Day-Miller said.
Day-Miller’s lamb weighs 155 pounds, allowing it to qualify for the heavyweight class.
Contestants line up outside of the ring waiting their turn. Day-Miller is front and center for her class, making her the line leader when the show starts.
One by one a handful of contestants enter the ring and take their place in the ring. Each person is in a crouched position while they closely hold their lamb’s head to keep control.
With a firm stance and feet planted into the ground, each person waits for the judge to make his first evaluation of the lambs. From afar, the show resembles a sort of dance tied together in unison, but up close highlights each contestant’s desire to place.
The sound of lambs singing is cut with the silence of the judges.
After a minute or two passes, it is time to change positions, shift sides and change stances.
The judge selects three contestants to move forward, leaving Day-Miller with the other four contestants who did not make the cut.
“I am a little aggravated because the animal was not working with me,” Day-Miller said when she stepped out of the ring. “But I have one more show to do so it is time to push it out of my mind.”
Day-Miller said next year she will consider getting a smaller lamb to have better control.