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Posted: February 13, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Free entry with this column

 Do not despair.

You haven’t made reservations or romantic plans for tomorrow’s big holiday?

Maybe you’re short on cash and need a fun alternative date idea?

Better yet, you need a family-friendly option because all the baby sitters are taken.

Congratulations: this column grants you free entry to the Newton Classic Livestock Show at 10 a.m. on Valentine’s Day.

That’s right — everyone always says they miss the livestock at the "real local fair," so here’s your last chance this season to see our local fourth to 12th graders in action as they face off in weight class and showmanship with their hogs , heifers and steers.

These young men and women have worked hard over the last year to raise and train their animals, and have honed their showmanship skills throughout the last several months at shows throughout the state.

They represent Mansfield Elementary, Middle Ridge Elementary, Cousins Middle, Indian Creek Middle, Alcovy High, Eastside High and Newton High.

They also represent two of the best known youth organizations: 4-H and FFA.

The show begins at 10 a.m. at the Newton High School livestock barn. From Brown Bridge, turn onto Ram Drive and go straight through the four-way stop (after stopping, of course — don’t blame your tickets on me), and wind around to the barn .

Don’t be late or you’ll miss out on welcoming remarks from local education officials including Newton High’s principal, Dr. Roderick Sams, and Superintendant Steven Whatley.

Dr. Sams commented back in September that he never forgot how to show a heifer from his days as a Burke County 4-H’er, so you could perhaps challenge him to a showdown in the Old Timer’s Show following the end of youth competition.

(Disclaimer: The name of this particular competition does not reflect on the age of the competitors.)

Last year’s winner, fifth grade 4-H’er McKenzie Powell, is ineligible since she is a regular competitor this year, so the Old Timer’s Title is up for grabs.

Following the hog competition, a cake auction will be held by each of the 4-H and FFA chapters. All proceeds benefit the respective chapters.

Yes, the benefits of spending Valentine’s Day at the livestock show also include the opportunity to take home the perfect gift: a great dessert.

Since this is a competition to see which chapter can raise the most money, and I am just slightly biased, let me mention that while 4-H has several food competitions and project categories, I’m pretty sure they don’t teach baking over in FFA.

That said, I mastered in the communications project and the only cooking award I won in 4-H was for "most creative" in the pizza contest, so you should probably keep that in mind as well.

Thankfully, only one cake from each chapter must be baked by an advisor, so I’m sure most of the others will be perfectly edible.

Finally, you don’t have to worry about not making reservations — the best lunch in town tomorrow can be found at the Young Farmers Women’s Committee concession stand at the show. Delicious food, great prices and all profits benefit the livestock show.

Incidentally, during all these wonderful Valentine’s date opportunities, our local students will also be showcasing their livestock while competing for cash, trophies and buckles in weight classes, showmanship and record books.

Livestock projects teach responsibility and dedication, as well as helping to preserve a bit of agriculture so many of our youth never experience today.

More than 100 local businesses and families contributed financially to the show, and we are appreciative of all their support, especially in such tight economic times.

The FFA advisors from each school, agricultural county agent Ted Wynne and myself have worked hard on the show and with our youth to make tomorrow a great event not only for the youth, but also for the community.

To summarize, I’m offering a free afternoon at the barn, a bargain lunch, a chance to bid on a delicious (or creative) dessert, and you’ll be supporting local youth in the process.

How can you pass on this deal?

(P.S. You don’t really need this column to get free entry, but please do stop by the announcer’s table to let me know you joined us after reading this!)

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