Louie Rodriguez was a newcomer to the Denton County Livestock Association Youth Fair this year, competing in the rabbit showmanship competition on Tuesday.
The 13-year-old Krum Middle School student spent less than a year raising his four rabbits, which, after the competition, are now a prize-winning bunch.
“I was surprised,” he said. “This was my first year, and I was just praying that I didn’t come in last.”
During the competition, judges critiqued almost every aspect of a contestant’s rabbits, from the tips of their ears to their feet.
Rodriguez placed second in the first round of judging in which officials grade a contestant’s rabbits as a group.
But in the second round, contestants entered only their best rabbit to be judged, and Rodriguez placed first.
Judges praised Rodriguez for the quality and appearance of his rabbits, noting that his rabbits were in excellent condition.
To properly raise rabbits, it takes more than just giving them food and water.
“You have to stretch their backs and brush them all the time,” Rodriguez said. “They are very needy.”
Rodriguez, who said he would compete again next year, entered four rabbits in the competition and said it takes about two hours a day to care for them.
Rodriguez’s father, William Concepcion, said it takes “a little bit of daddy” to help his son fit in school, homework and friends in between caring for the rabbits.
“I used to raise rabbits when I was younger, so I kind of helped him and showed him what to do,” Concepcion said. “He put in a lot of time into the rabbits. He did a good job.”
On Saturday, Rodriguez will enter his rabbits into an auction, where he will say goodbye to his team.
He said he decided not to name them in an effort to make the auction easier.
“When you name them, you grow attached to them and then it’s hard to get rid of them,” Rodriguez said.
The youth fair began Monday, starting with a horse show and a scholarship awards dinner.
Contestants will compete through Friday, vying for top honors and sale spots in Saturday’s auction, said Suzanne Fulton, the fair’s board president and show committee superintendent.
More than 700 children will compete in events including market and breeding shows, public speaking, tractor driving and horticultural and environmental science, Fulton said.
This year marks the 38th anniversary of the youth fair and rodeo, which has grown from a two-day fair to a weeklong event at the North Texas State Fairgrounds.
Fulton said the fair is run completely by volunteers and most events are at the North Texas State Fairgrounds, 2217 N. Carroll Blvd. A full list of events can be found online at http://dclayf.net.
“These volunteers, parents and ag teachers and 4-H leaders work had to support the youth of Denton County reach not only their competition goals but future life goals as well,” Fulton said.
JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter @JDHarden.