These competitors are going for the steel at the Stock Show

Posted Friday, Jan. 18, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- In many competitions, the participants are going for the gold.

But the competitors in the Fort Worth Stock Show's Junior Agricultural Mechanics Projects Show are going for the steel.

"There is about $75,000 worth of awards," said Ted Ford, a Tarleton State University professor who is a superintendent for the event, which challenges young people to build or restore agricultural machinery. "The winners receive certificates for $3,000 worth of steel so they can build one building or five trailers or whatever."

Shows such as these have been around for decades, Ford said, but this is the first time the Stock Show has included one. You can see the entries and meet their builders in the new Equestrian Multipurpose Building today and Sunday.

And what a range of entries there is.

Ford said about 25 percent of the participants build trailers of some type and 25 percent build livestock-related equipment, such as feeders and sprayers. But the rest is all over the map, covering almost anything that might be useful on a ranch or farm -- from cookers and smokers to restored tractors.

One of the more unusual entries was built by Trent Henderson, 18, of Edgewood in East Texas.

"This is a 32-ton hydraulic log splitter," Henderson said, proudly pointing at the unlikely assemblages of steel and rubber. "I started building it in early October and I finished it about six days ago."

Organizers said that one of the goals of this competition is to allow young people who are active in 4H and FFA to get involved in stock shows even if they do not own a show animal.

"These shows have been around for quite a while and they are growing in popularity," Ford said. "I find that the kids feel an incredible sense of pride about the things they build. Those who show livestock have that too. But seems to be even greater for these kids because, except for the restoration entries, they have built these entries from scratch. [For a trailer] they buy the axle, the hitch and pieces of iron. They measure it, cut it, weld it, fabricate it, prep it for painting and do the lights and the wiring. Everything."

Henderson has enjoyed success with livestock as well as machines. He said the $4,000 he needed to create his wood splitter came from his work with show goats, including the reserve grand championship honors with a Boer goat at the 2012 Stock Show.

"Fort Worth is my favorite show to go to because I have been showing here since I was in third grade," said Henderson, a high school senior who plans to study construction management in college. "I always liked hands-on activities and I like big shows."

Ford said the contestants will be judged primarily on the workmanship of their entries -- details like the quality of their welds and the tightness of joint fittings. Other judging categories are design and materials used, documentation, degree of difficulty and knowledge of the project.

The contestants are also judged on how well they present their entries to the public, but they will not know who is evaluating that part of the competition.

"Even I don't know who the showmanship judge is. It is that big a secret," Ford said.

Winners will be chosen in six divisions, including two that Ford said are unique to the Stock Show: outdoor recreational and convenience (the cookers and smokers category), and farm and ranch restoration (which ranges from rebuilt tractors to refurbished carriages and horse-drawn trailers).

The grand champion will receive $1,000 in prize money, a certificate for $3,000 worth of steel and a welding machine.

"It's a total of about $7,000 worth of prizes," Ford said.

But win or lose, most of the participants go home with a piece of machinery that is going to come in handy around their ranch or farm. For example, it doesn't look like the Hendersons are going to be running out of firewood anytime soon.

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